Monday, 31 December 2007

Video nasties!

Surfing the web for videos of stormy weather sailing I came across these two!
The first is the best film of a boat in a storm that I have ever seen.

The second is just one of those amazing sporting moments that combined with a commentary has me laughing out loud. Whether thats humour or hysteria I am not sure!

When the narrator says "this is terminal" he's not wrong...




Goodbye to 2007!

Well it's been another fascinating year for us. As the year gets ready to turn again, they really do seem to go faster as I get older, I have been recalling the past 12 months. Both the lows and the highs...

We started in great form in the San Blas islands of Panama with Lucy, our youngest, and her boyfriend, Alex, on board. It was lovely to have them to stay, especially as both of them are experienced and competent sailors. We harbour hopes that they will take a year off work and sail with us to Chile one of these days! We are lucky in that the kids all manage to come and visit us about once every 18 months or so. As we no longer return to the UK that makes a massive difference to my contentment levels out here cruising!

The low point was TBH's teeth!! Prior to leaving the UK we spent a large sum of money correcting some major dental problems for him. Having been brought up in the wilds of East Africa, where the only available treat was a piece of sugarcane, some pretty irreparable damage happened. Anyway one of the expensive pieces failed as we were returning to Colon and it was the start of a long, painful and expensive period of treatment. That necessitated us overstaying our visa in Panama. Not something we are ever keen to do, but the officials at Panama Canal Yacht Club were really helpful and accommodating.

With that period finally behind us we set sail Northwards heading, ultimately, for the Rio Dulce.

The first passage to Providencia was a typical mixture of good, bad and indifferent. Leaving the breakwater at Colon was a nightmare. Well thats probably a bit of an exaggeration! I was feeling quite emotional at exiting Panama, we spent over a year there and had made good friends and love the country. The sailing in the San Blas Islands is fantastic, the countryside contains a huge diversity of just about everything, birds,mammals,geography. Coupled with this depression we had to tack our way through some persistent head winds and lumpy seas. It took us some extra 150 miles to get clear of the problem area which was really only about 50 as the crow flies, ah well.

Providencia is a little gem, set amongst the reefs and clear blue waters we made landfall after a three day passage.Anchored in the big sheltered bay we met up with some boats we had met in Panama and stayed a couple of weeks to enjoy the laid back island atmosphere.Terrible, almost non-existent internet connection though.

We debated about taking the inshore or offshore passage around Cabo de Gracios de Dios. Offshore winning as TBH just loves ocean sailing and his idea of heaven is to be as far from land as possible! That was fine by me and we enjoyed a fast, calm trip straight to Guanaja in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Amazing clear water, lots of reefs and delightful people. If it weren't for the appalling insect population it would be nigh on perfect! We stayed for months, making good friends with some of the residents, including the old dolphin that came to visit most afternoons!

Sadly I managed to contract dengue fever here, not funny! The most painful thing I have ever had, including the experience of childbirth....

This rather put a damper on our plans to explore the rest of the Bay Islands and we spent a couple of weeks recuperating at Roatan before making the crossing to the Rio Dulce.

And here we still are! Since our arrival in late June we have hauled the boat and finally got some new antifoul on the hull.Mario's marina has satisfied our every need!

TBH has made great progress with his new venture and we look forward to the launch in early 2008.

And of course I have taken to blogging! I have enjoyed reviving the old journalistic skills, and truth be told have been delighted to realize that I can still sniff out the odd good story. This coupled with returning to the discipline of regular writing has restored my interest in the world of media!! Oh dear I hear TBH sigh!

We have left behind some wonderful friends, made some amazing new ones! Kept the boat maintained, suffered a few breakdowns, started to revarnish the interior (and decided we have to move ashore before we do the rest!).

My sushi making has improved dramatically, my tolerance levels have fallen dramatically! TBH continues to be the perfect sailmate.

So as we enter our eighth year onboard I am just as excited and confident of the future year as at the very beginning, cruising is still everything I hoped for and a lot of things that I never even dreamed of!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Sobering Sights.

These two video examples show just how quickly a boat can get into trouble. I would like to think these are rare occurrences but sadly it has happened to too many boats that I have known of.

You know it does me good to dwell on these dangers from time to time. To remind myself that the preparation for a voyage is vital and that I need to be constantly aware of the need to learn more about how to safely continue enjoying my cruising life.

In direct contrast to the beliefs of the likes of "Captain" Heather and her Dad I am not going to put my trust in 'soul' or any other airy fairy nonsense. I am going to make sure my sails are in trim, my seacocks are greased, my charts are adequate and that the weather forecast is good!

I see from this email from "Captain" Heather that some reality is beginning to creep in, at last.

To those of you kind folk who are coming to see me off…I have a bit of unhappy news. The weather forecast for New Year's Day is:

Small Craft Warning
Winds 12-24 knots
Seas: 3' every 4 seconds (15/minute)

That wouldn't stop me from leaving Steinhatchee, Florida since I could sail out under a single or double reefed main and working jib. No Problem.

The next day, January 2, 2008, is the problem. The weather forecast calls for:

Hazardous Conditions—use Extreme Caution
Winds 22 — 29 Knots
Seas: 14' every 8 seconds (7.5/minute)

Since I would have to heave-to or lie to my sea anchor all day January 2nd and I would not have been able to get far enough from land on January 1st, I would still be in the shallow waters of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico with many hazards, there may be a delay in my departure from Florida.

Watch for future updates...

Thu Dec 27, 2007 4:56 pm






Sobering sights aren't they?

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Hugo Boss stops in New Zealand for repairs.

Leaving the sad tale of "Captain" Heather to one side, where I am increasingly convinced it belongs, lets take a look at Hugo Boss's current situation.

They have just completed a 48 hour 'pit-stop' in Wellington, New Zealand. There was a problem with the twin rudders, which is described in their report below. It is now fixed and they are well on their way again, still holding second place!

Thomson and Cape depart Wellington after 48 hour pit-stop

Alex and Capey are now back at sea and racing again, after repairing the damaged rudders on HUGO BOSS. The pair rejoined the Barcelona World Race off Wellington, New Zealand, at 05.00 GMT on 29 December, resuming second place behind leader Paprec Virbac 2. With a 708 mile deficit on the leader and their confidence now restored in the boat, Alex and Capey will be pushing hard in a bid to close the gap.

Under race regulations HUGO BOSS was obliged to remain in port for a minimum of 48 hours as a penalty for seeking outside assistance from its shore team. Alex commented: “The pit-stop has allowed us to repair the rudders and deal with a number of other small problems that had cropped up on the boat after sailing halfway around the world. The rudder blades had been moving within their cassettes causing the cassettes themselves to split. The excess movement in the system also caused the bearings on the transom at the back of the boat to wear out.” In addition, the rudders on HUGO BOSS are ‘kick-up’ rudders, designed to hinge upwards if they hit a submerged object. However, they had a tendency to kick up of their own accord, leaving the boat without steerage and causing the boat to crash gybe, which could result in a dismasting had HUGO BOSS continued sailing.

“My team has done a great job here in Wellington, and Capey and I have managed to get some rest and some fresh food inside us... We now have full confidence in the boat and can rejoin the race at 100%, and take on the task of catching Paprec-Virbac 2. I am chuffed to bits with the performance of HUGO BOSS and amazed that we have got to this stage of the race as competitive as we have been with such a new boat.”

Once through the Cook Strait, HUGO BOSS will head south-east, taking on a second treacherous Southern Ocean leg and rounding the infamous Cape Horn. She will then head north up the Atlantic to the finish in Barcelona, where the fleet is expected to arrive in February 2008.

I wonder if they took advantage of their time on land to grab a haircut or any other luxury? I don't even know if that is allowed under the rules but I would be bloody tempted!

I have been wondering what I would put at the top of my list , after repairing the boat of course! Haircut, big juicy steak, wash the sleeping bag!

Go for it guys you are doing great and roll on Barcelona in February, that's going to be some party!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Controversy.

This story has stirred up some interesting dialogue on a number of sailing forums. For example on the British ybw.com, a poster draws a comparison between Captain Heather and the young Tania Aebi, who sailed her twenty six foot boat around the world 20 years ago. The big difference between these two stories is that Tania did not proclaim herself a heroine before she even started!

Whilst I understand the very human desire to encourage those who attempt such feats I am puzzled by the defensiveness of a community that has been so summarily dismissed by Mr Neill, Heather's Dad. To accept misleading and, in some cases, totally incorrect information because it is perceived to have been given in a spirit of adventure strikes me as stupid and unforgivable.

This woman is going to risk her boat, her project and maybe even her life because in her, albeit silent, agreement with her father's very public statements she is alienating both sound practical advice and the goodwill of a community that would truly like to see her succeed.

I began this story with interest and optimism but through the strange response of Mr Neill to a sincerely offered piece of information I find a very different underlying tale. This makes me suspicious. Cynical I may be but curious I certainly am!

In this world of internet and fast global communication those who seek to exploit our sailing and cruising communities need to be aware that some of us do not take things at face value. What has`really surprised me on the various forums is people's reluctance to ask and pursue the key questions. We do not all have to agree or even think in the same way but I do believe it is vital to voice our concerns. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander!

This posting appeared on sailnet.com and I heartily endorse his views.

If it's "highly controversial" to suggest that novice sailors should take some time to reflect and learn and then set off quietly and humbly, learning as they go, making no grand pronouncements about intended circumnavigations, then so be it -I'm highly controversial. I'm not the old fart I thought I was...I'm a revolutionary!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Stop Press. Newsflash!

I cannot believe what I have just found out about "Captain" Heather's Dad, Dr Gene Neill! (See my last post.)

Sit back folks you just ain't going to believe this one.......

Follow this thread on Cruising World where Heather's Dad and I have been having a 'difference of opinion'. That's putting it mildly.

Well guess what I have just found out? Blow me down with a feather the old man is... a missionary!

Aaghh, what the hell have we got going here in the sailing community. It gets worse. He's a convicted felon, sentenced to 50 years!!Got out in 2 after 'being saved'. Bet that was a hard choice...

Now it all makes sense, that's why he argued it wasn't balls she needed but soul. And that's why they're not interested in yachties, it's the religious suckers they are after. That's who they aim to fleece.

Wonder where his 50 years of cruising experience comes from, my mind leads me to fast ribs and men in black balaclava's!!!

This is the information I got through the forum thread

Jolly_Jack Jolly_Jack is offline
New Member

Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1
Thumbs down Gerry, Please ignore this person.....

He is famous across a number of sites for abusing anyone who disagrees with his somewhat sad and outdated ideas. I feel sorry for his daughter but I hope that when she gets away from his clutches she will take better advice along her route.

What he fails to mention in his inflated view of himself is that he is a convicted felon (its on his web site).

See http://www.go-to-jail.org/

Click on his photo and it will give you his resume;

"When he was forty, Neill became deeply involved in organized crime, and was sentenced to serve fifty years in a Federal penitentiary. Indictments under which he was sentenced included large-scale narcotics distribution, possession of machine guns, a pistol with a silencer, massive insurance frauds and related conspiracies."

He found GOD (or more likely GOB (the Good Old Boy network)) and he was released after 2 years.

Since then he has been preaching to a captive audience in prison who no doubt are very interested in how he scammed himself out of a 50year stretch. He also touts his book, printed in 1975 and now out of print.

He is rather ill at the moment and I wish a speedy recovery and I wish his daughter well on the trip. Any more of your wise advice will however, be wasted. As the saying goes, "She who washes the head of a pig looses both her time and her soap".

I'm just happy that under Florida law he cannot vote!!!



And here is an excerpt from his own website. You really couldn't make it up!!


More Than One Life

Dr. Gene Neill was a professional race car driver, and served honorably in the United States Marine Corps in the Far East during the Korean War. He majored in Philosophy in undergraduate school, and graduated with a Doctorate in Law, cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law in 1961.

Neill served as a Public Defender in Miami for three years, and was later appointed as a Prosecuting Attorney in the Special Prosecution Division of the Dade County State Attorney's Office in Miami. In that capacity he prosecuted many of the organized crime and Mafia figures in the East Coast underworld, and he later became a very successful criminal defense attorney in Miami.

When he was forty, Neill became deeply involved in organized crime, and was sentenced to serve fifty years in a Federal penitentiary. Indictments under which he was sentenced included large-scale narcotics distribution, possession of machine guns, a pistol with a silencer, massive insurance frauds and related conspiracies.

But in a little dimly-lit underground solitary isolation cell in a maximum security Federal penitentiary, he had a dramatic conversion experience. After a total of two years and thirteen days in prison he was miraculously set free, and has been a full-time prison minister and evangelist in great demand around the world since his release twenty-three years ago.

An ordained minister with the oldest and most extensive international prison ministry in the world, Neill is the author of the current international best-selling book, "I'm Gonna' Bury You!", published in five languages. Since his release from prison he has spoken in thousands of churches and prisons, and his ministries have taken him through 44 countries on five continents.

Neill has been seen and heard many times on all of the international Christian television and radio media; he spent three months ministering in the "Underground Churches" of the former Soviet Union, where he was arrested three times by the Soviet Secret Police. He and his family lived for six months in mainland Communist China; recently he was invited to Havana, Cuba, where he met and talked with Fidel Castro; and he also conducted a speaking tour of the prisons of Israel at the invitation of the Ministry of the Police of Israel.

Gene and his wife Dorothy reside in Florida, from where they direct World-Wide Prison Ministries and other international Christian outreach programs.


Well this is going to be an interesting story to follow folks!

Captain Heather and her Dad.


I have been following the preparations for a solo circumnavigation that is due to set off from Florida on 1st January. The woman , Captain Heather, at 43, started to learn to sail in January this year, bought a boat in April 2007, and with a massive PR campaign from her dad is shortly due to leave for her great life adventure...

There is nothing particularly remarkable about such enterprise these days but this particular story has a grizzly fascination for me and perhaps for the other media that are covering it. This seems to come from an intoxicating cocktail of unmerited self-importance, arrogance and ignorance. Is this an accident waiting to happen? Will Captain Heather discover humility in the treacherous oceans? Or will she luck out and return blithely oblivious to the dangers she has just evaded like the toys in Toy Story 2 when they cross the road!

I discovered the project whilst surfing the cruising world website forums. 'Dad' had posted a thread inviting fellow sailors to join in the send off. Fascinating, I thought. I love to hear of great adventures and especially ones that combine romantic idealism with practical knowledge and I wrote back to him with some information that I thought might be useful.

Oh Boy! Got that one wrong didn't I! Far from posting on forums to, maybe, gather more info for his daughters great adventure you can see from the string of responses that I have certainly twisted this guys tail!

But he seems to have missed my point, that far from denouncing adventures of this nature my concern is that the realities of such undertakings should not be coloured with the misty rose tinted spectacles of unreal assertion. Especially when voiced on public forums... ooh he didn't like that.

I don't know about you but the more I am out here doing the sailing thing the more I know that I don't know much at all! Well not this guy. He has pointed out that he has 50 years sailing experience, 10 years in University and 2 doctorates (quite what relevance that has I cannot fathom) and nobody is going to tell him what to do...

He seems to have lost sight of the fact that it's his daughter, Captain Heather, who will be out there doing it in a twenty four foot boat with limited experience and preparation. Oh and by the way, 'Heather is definitely not a "yachtie" type, as you mentioned, and not at all interested in their thoughts nor customs.' Nor has he any knowledge of the current single handers. But she will be seen off by the Joshua Slocum Society. So that's okay then.

I despair! And it makes me wonder what they are doing seeking all this PR coverage and financial support when they have no desire to have contact with other sailors? Why are the sailing comics covering this project, are they adding any cautionary editorial to their articles? Probably not.

Now I do not advocate 'nannying' and certainly would not question safety, experience or any other qualifications, although I am intrigued that it is possible to become a Captain in the USA with less than one years sailing experience! What does concern me greatly is more of this romantic , anyone can just do this, you don't need money or skill, just soul. Hogwash! You need practical skills, strength and a BIG dose of realism to safely navigate the treacherous oceans of the world.

I somehow think that Captain Heather is in for a rude awakening. She doesn't want to anchor in the 'filthy, deep mud bottom' of The Flats or stay in the' dirty, poorly run, right in a high crime area' Panama Canal Yacht Club but has plumped for the expensive, isolated, fantasy world of Shelter Bay Marina prior to her canal transit.

She doesn't need money (ha!) but asks for donations of a dollar a day to fund`her diet of rice and beans.

I wish her well but I have a bad feeling about this expedition.

So if you come across a tiny, twenty foot at waterline by eight foot beam pocket yacht remember that Captain Heather's Dad says she's not interested in other yachties , you have been warned!

You too can follow this story on her website, see you there!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Boxing Day.

Back in the UK the day after Christmas was always traditionally the time for the annual Boxing Day meet of the local Hunt. A truly rural event where the horses and hounds would congregate in, usually, a village setting. Joined by the local supporters. Drinking a glass of 'stirrup cup' and gnawing on a lukewarm sausage roll was all part of the event..... No more.

Bowing to vociferous political pressure hunting with dogs has finally been outlawed by the Labour government, a sad day for me. I find it difficult to deal with, as I travel away from my home country watching it changing in such fundamental ways that I may never recognize the place again.

I am chuffed to see reported by the BBC this morning that some 300 Hunts will be meeting today, despite the new legislation! Maybe there is hope after all...

Although this piece of video is set in a market town, larger than the meets I am used to, it shows the wonderful community element of the event. Hounds, huntsmen, followers and supporters all enjoying the social aspect prior to the hunt setting off in pursuit of the fox. Traditionally it is a time for the youngsters to have a go and doll up their ponies with a bit of tinsel. They will have been well drilled in the etiquette of the hunting field and are probably all terrified that they might make an error, or god forbid, actually fall off!



So Christmas is over for another year. We had a great time.The potluck Christmas meal went down very well. Turkeys and hams cooked in the BBQ pit again-delicious, and contributions from all the cruisers which added a true international feel to the event. I must admit to roasting our own spuds, in goose fat! Not enough for all so we had a private pig out session on our table. There are some things that just have to be on my plate at Christmas and that is one of them! I try and play at being a suave international traveler from time to time but somehow I always fail miserably when it comes down to the line!

We took along mincepies and a couple of Christmas puddings. I was disappointed with the mincepies, the pastry most definitely not up to my usual standard, but never mind its the thought that counts right! However the puds were superb, one bought in and one homemade they were well worth the hours of steaming, just added a bit to the tropical humidity here on the boat! A number of cruisers had never tasted 'plum pudding' so it was nice to spread a bit of British tradition.

Our fellow table mates were an American couple who had lived most of their lives in Alaska. Those who know me realize that I have never been the same since watching the TV series 'Northern Exposure' , a quirky hit that was set in Cicely, Alaska. ( I was sad to find out years later that it was actually filmed in Seattle!) Anyway I had a lovely time grilling Joe and Kathy about the history of the place. I harbour fantasies of sailing there via the Pacific rim and making our approach across the Aleutian chain from Japan... Most people fall about laughing when I make this admission but you never know we may get there one of these days. I have read the Pardey's account and also the Roth's tales of sailing to Japan, now thats real adventure!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Our Christmas card!

Especially for our families, Merry Christmas from us. Hope the Turkey is in the oven, and in some cases already eaten!



and a short update from Hugo Boss off the coast of Australia...

Monday, 24 December 2007

A Merry Christmas to All.

I am delighted to have found this copy of the original 1933 Walt Disney cartoon 'The Night Before Christmas'.

From us here on board our little boat in Guatemala to all our friends, wherever you are, have a very Merry Christmas. Eat too much, drink enough and laugh a lot!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Bah! Humbug!

We are a little weary this morning. TBH has been trying to restore another cruisers laptop and hit a major problem when his own crashed late last night....after a tense few hours and some phone calls to both the USA and India he managed to reinstall and configure the registry(worse than brain surgery I am led to believe!). We finally made it to sleep around 3am , oh well such is life.

You know I think that computing skills is really similar to witchcraft and magic! Few people really understand the dark arts and to those of us who don't know what is going on it is just a marvel when the 'blue screen of death' is resurrected into an animate object again!

I am set for a busy day, there are so many social events over the next few days here at Mario's marina that I need to get ahead with my cooking contributions. We have a breakfast potluck coming up as well as carol singing and of course Christmas Day potluck...

I am going to start by making the mince pies as soon as I have had breakfast and cleared the decks a bit. Looks like a bomb has gone off down here at the moment. Tiny computer repair tools jumbled in amongst Christmas decorations and 'How to' manuals. Well I guess that's the down side of living in such a small space.

The 'Bah Humbug' part of me, yes even I have a touch of it, has been trying to assert itself. Case of missing the kids, and the cat, fending off a cold that is trying to take hold, and a sentimental longing for snow and crowded shops...it's all in the mind though and with a generous dosing of Christmas music, glasses of mulled wine and Chrismas baking I will kick it into touch!

So more choirboys and traditional music to get me back in the mood. These are from King's College, Cambridge. I shall miss listening to the service of nine carols and lessons that will be broadcast from there by the BBC, as it is every Christmas Eve, sorry got to go need to wipe the tears that are gathering in the corner of my eye...



And an excerpt from 'The Snowman' by Raymond Briggs. An integral part of my children's childhood Christmases , pass the tissues!



That's better! Therapy successful. Just a bloody good job I don't wear mascara here!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Wanna be a TV Star?

Just picked this up off cruisingworld.com, anyone fancy being a reality TV star!

With just about everybody else already on the reality-TV bandwagon, it seems it's time for sailors to hop aboard. Casting has begun for Island Hopper, a new real-life sailing adventure series. Channel and time slot have yet to be announced, because producers must first find the perfect personality to skipper the show.

The ideal candidate is adventurous, personable, mechanically inclined, worldly, and camera friendly. The sailor will be filmed cruising from island to island in an endless quest of new cultures, fascinating personalities, exotic foods, historical oddities, unique festivals, and rarely seen phenomena.

Producers are advertising for 20- to 40-somethings, but that shouldn't stop sea-savvy older teens (candidates must be at least 18 years of age) or young-at-heart older folks from giving it a go. Women are encouraged to apply, and wannabes don't even have to own their own boat! But yes, you do need to know how to sail one.

Initial candidate auditions require a three- to five-minute audio-visual submission via VHS or DVD. For details, casting criteria, and how to apply, e-mail IslandHopper@firststryke.com, or visit the Island Hopper website

A little Christmas poetry...

A selection of Christmas poems, to begin Benjamin Zephaniah, performing his poem 'Turkey'! I love this guy's stuff...



An irreverent Australian version of 'Twas the Night before Christmas' (Bad language!)



And last - but by no means least - TBH's contribution to the festive ode's!



Mmmn, maybe he shouldn't give up the day job!

Friday, 21 December 2007

A Joyous Winter Solstice to you...

So today marks the shortest day of the year and the celebration of the Winter Solstice also known as Yule!

All over the world, and since time immemorial this date has been celebrated to welcome the coming of the new year and the renewal of life.


In England the best known centre of such ceremonies is the great stone circle of Stonehenge near Salisbury in Wiltshire. Since I was a small child I have been fascinated by this ring of massive stones. I remember, in the days when it was allowed, walking up to the huge arches in the misty and usually drizzling early morning and walking around in stunned amazement trailing my hand across the rough stone. I would always try to imagine what it had been like when this extra-ordinary place was built. Mind-boggling!

Many, many cultures the world over perform solstice ceremonies. At their root: an ancient fear that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with anxious vigil or antic celebration.

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months. And of course the kiss under the mistletoe was part of a fertility wish that is really the basis of so many of these ancient traditions...

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.

So tonight marks the lighting of fires around the world to encourage the sun to return to its rightful place in the sky and warm lands across the globe.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

One for my Captain..

This one is especially for TBH, Merry Christmas darling and thank you for another glorious year! Roll on the sailing in 2008.
I hope you all enjoy Diana Krall too, with her jazz version of Jingle Bells!

Issh a Chriissmashh shonng innit

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

More on the Multi-Bird Christmas Roast...

I found this in the Daily Mail newspaper this morning, seems that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has started a real trend with these Christmas Roasts!

Anne Petch has a great site to order wonderful food throughout the year if you are resident in the UK.She really was one of the great pioneers of organic, high quality meat in England. I do miss her produce, sigh!

Anyway read on...and enjoy!

For decades, a few simple slices of turkey were all it needed. But now even the traditional Christmas dinner has been supersized.

Multi-bird roasts, where different types of bird are stuffed inside a larger one, have become the thing to carve this year - and the more birds involved the better.

One of the top-sellers is the Waitrose four-bird roast: guinea fowl, duck and turkey breast stuffed inside a goose. Demand has soared 50 per cent this year - even though each roast costs an eyewatering £200.

Phillip Corrick

Feast: Chef Phillip Corrick samples the monster roast

The surge in popularity may have something to do with TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's creation of a ten-bird roast on his show two years ago.

He stuffed an 18lb turkey with a goose, duck, mallard, guinea fowl, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon and woodcock - producing a remarkable Russian doll-like dish.

But now his effort, inspired by recipes dating from Tudor times, has been dwarfed by a behemoth containing no fewer than 48 birds of 12 different species.

This massive roast, the proud creation of Devon farmer Anne Petch, weighs almost four stone (more than most airlines' baggage allowance), costs £665, and has enough meat to serve 125 people.

Monster turkey

Fowl task: Anne Petch and butcher John Myrda prepare the monster

It contains about 50,000 calories and takes more than eight hours to cook in an industrialducksized oven.

Anne, who runs the Heal Farm shop near Kings Nympton, said: "The True Love Roast has a bird for each of the 12 days of Christmas.

"It uses skinless breast meat from several birds of each species with flavours that work well together."

The roast contains turkey, goose, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon squab, Aylesbury duck, Barbary duck, poussin, guinea fowl, mallard-and quail with herb and fruit stuffings.

Anne added: "It takes about 45 minutes to build the roast. However, it takes at least three hours before that to bone the birds and another couple of days to make all the stuffings.

"We've been making smaller multibird roasts for a while, but I wanted something with a real wow factor.

"It was only when I was halfway through the first prototype that I realised what a crazy idea it was. But I still think that next year we'll have something even more spectacular, perhaps a 21-bird roast.

"These sorts of things used to be made with great bustards and swans, but they are protected birds now."

To put the True Love Roast to the taste test, we took it to the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London - home to a mammoth convection oven capable of cooking our monster.

Multi-bird roast

1. Turkey, 2. Goose, 3. Barbary duck, 4. Guinea fowl, 5. Mallard, 6. Poussin, 7. Quail, 8. Partridge, 9. Pigeon squab, 10. Pheasant, 11. Chicken, 12. Aylesbury duck

Chef Phillip Corrick said: "I was taken aback by the sheer bulk of meat. Something of this size is difficult to cook because it could get very dry, but in the end, I was surprised.

"It was very moist and had an interesting mix of textures and flavours. All the citrus stuffings cut through the strong gamey flavours really well.

"I'd happily eat this on Christmas Day. But I found that although the game has some powerful flavours, it's difficult to distinguish-which is which because the flavours mingle together.

"I think a better result could be achieved by simply taking the four most distinctive-tasting birds - the goose, the Aylesbury duck, the turkey and either the pheasant or partridge.

"As it is, this is more interesting than turkey, but not very practical.

"There's no doubt it's a very impressive thing to serve. But much as I enjoyed it, the impression is better than the taste."

Food historian Ivan Day said that despite popular opinion, multi-bird feasts were historically cooked in pies, rather than roasted because with the real fires of the era, rather than ovens, the outer meat would have become dry and tough.

"These pies would have given Bill Oddie nightmares," he said: "There was one baked for the Earl of Lonsdale in 1753 after which there must have been not a single bird singing for miles.

"It had dozens of things like yellowhammers in it and weighed 20 stone."

Request to Santa.

Found this cool site, and have put in a request to Santa for Jim, boss here at the Marina. I am so excited and can't wait to see if and when he gets a response!!

Dear Santa,
Jim will be very busy over Christmas looking after the boaters here at the Marina in Guatemala, they come from all over the world and some of the kids are worried that you will have no chimney to come down, they only have masts on their boats! Please will you send him a note to show them so that they can quit worrying! I would be very grateful indeed. Love Gerry(for Jim)x
PS I know he would like a tall slim blonde in his stocking please. He has been a VERY good boy this year!


And...on Christmas Eve we can all track Santa's journey around the earth in 3D via google, wow!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Barcelona World Race Update.

Hugo Boss has no heating, brrr, and it looks like a terminal problem! They have ripped a sail but thankfully have a spare. As Christmas approaches the sailing is getting really tough and yet another boat has to retire hurt.

Veolia Environnement has become the third boat to suffer catastrophic mast failure in the Barcelona World Race when the French entry dismasted on Monday evening. Skippers Roland Jourdain and Jean-Luc Nélias were unhurt and are safe.

“We were sailing very quiet, downwind, with a big gennaker and a full mainsail,” explained Jean-Luc by video conference this morning. “Suddenly there was a big cloud and the wind increased a lot. I went on deck to ease the main sheet. Then we hit the bottom of the wave and the boat stopped and the mast broke…"
Image
Veolia Environnement jury rig

They’ve made a jury rig and are sailing at seven knots towards the southwest tip of Australia, more than 1 500 nautical miles away. Last week, it was Delta Dore who dismasted and today, skippers Sidney Gavignet and Jérémie Beyou arrived safe and sound with the boat in Cape Town.

Meanwhile, out on the race course, Hugo Boss has put on a powerful and impressive display of speed. Skipper Alex Thomson has clawed back over 90 miles in the past 24 hours as Hugo Boss chases Paprec-Virbac 2 up to the Australian safety gate. Both are expected to pass the gate later today before bearing off and heading for Cook Strait; and this afternoon, it’s clear the pace of Hugo Boss is making skipper Alex Thomson very happy.

“We’ve made up loads of miles. It’s a mixture of it being the right conditions for this boat and Paprec in front of us have had less wind,” said an understated Alex Thomson. “But we haven’t really been pushing very hard. It’s been pretty relaxed. Been getting lots of sleep and watched a great movie last night…We were shocked and disappointed to hear about Veolia this morning. It’s a stark reminder of how fragile we all are out here.”

It’s a different story on board the race leader, Paprec-Virbac 2, where co-skipper Damian Foxall sounded tired and more than a little frustrated.

“We’re pushing water uphill,” he said. “For a couple of days now we have been sailing along a very slow moving front and there’s nowhere we can go apart from straight forward. There are light winds ahead and there’s fresh wind coming in from behind with Hugo Boss…we’ve really got a race on our hands.”

Further back, skippers Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret continue to nurse Temenos II towards New Zealand where they will stop to repair a keel problem. Behind them, Mutua Madrileña has been the fastest boat polled over the past 12 hours as they enjoy favourable power-reaching conditions.

At the tail end of the fleet, Educación sin Fronteras appears to have positioned itself well to escape the worst of a powerful Southern Ocean depression. Servanne Escoffier said they expect 30 to 40 knot westerlies over the next few days, and they are taking all the necessary steps to be safe as they power along in the Furious Fifties.

Day 38 – December 18, 16:00 GMT – Position report with distance to leader

1. PAPREC-VIRBAC 2 - Jean Pierre DICK / Damian FOXALL - 0
2. HUGO BOSS - Alex THOMSON / Andrew CAPE - 38
3. VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT - Roland JOURDAIN / Jean Luc NELIAS - dismasted
4. TEMENOS 2 - Dominique Wavre / Michele PARET- 1295
5. MUTUA MADRILENA - Javier SANSO / Pachi RIVERO - 1950
6. EDUCACION SIN FRONTERAS - Servane ESCOFFIER / Albert BARGUES - 2702

Abandoned - ESTRELLA DAMM - Guillermo ALTADILL / JONATHAN MCKEE
Abandoned - DELTA DORE - Jérémie BEYOU / Sidney GAVIGNET
Abandoned - PRB - Vincent Riou / Sebastien JOSSE

Strange English Christmas Traditions...

...Morris dancing! Visit any village green,pub forecourt,town square around Christmas Week, particularly Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, and you are likely to find a cluster of bearded men waving large white hankies or hefty sticks in the air whilst jumping up and down sort of in time to some strange music whilst wearing large bunches of bells around their legs..Whoa I hear you cry! What kind of perversion is this? Well it's a pretty old one.



Morris dancing is an age-old tradition that was almost on the verge of extinction by the end of the 19th century. It owes its contemporary revival to Cecil Sharp, who, having witnessed a Boxing Day Morris in Oxfordshire in 1899, went on to tour the country researching the dance. In 1911, he founded the English Folk Dance Society, helping to ensure that the Morris lives on.

There are also repeated references in the royal accounts for the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII of Morris entertainments being staged at Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany on Twelfth Night (6 January) being a particularly favourite date.

William Kemp, an Elizabethan comedian

As well as being a courtly entertainment, Morris dancing seems to have developed independently after this time as a popular pastime at spring and summer festivals. Different traditions developed in different areas, local differences that are assiduously preserved today. It seems likely that there was a Marian element to many of the dances (in other words, that they were intended to do honour to the Virgin Mary). Although the dancers were all men, the focus of the performance was often on a female figure, who mutated after the Reformation into an allegorical figure of Beauty or Love. By this time, it may be that the dancers were intended to be seen as competing to win her hand.

It could also be that these courtly forms of the Morris melded with older English folk traditions, perhaps pagan ones celebrating springtime and the return of fertility to the earth, to create the form that endured over the centuries. In early dances, the performers blacked their faces, but we don’t know whether this specifically reflected Moorish origins or whether it was simply a way of disguising the dancers’ identities.

Pagan prosecutions and re-legalisation

By the time of Elizabeth’s reign, Morris dancing had spread throughout the southern counties, from the border country with Wales across to Kent. During the ascendancy of Puritanism, it was reviled as "pagan and ungodly", and came to be associated with Royalism and social conservatism. Prosecutions against participants became more numerous, and it was eventually outlawed altogether under Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth.

Re-legalised after the Restoration, it ceased to have political implications, and became a matter of local groups maintaining a colourful but little-understood tradition in the villages. Its transformation was from urban to rural, courtly to demotic (or popular), and the resonances of its symbolism faded with changing times.

It was only with the revival of English folk music and dancing in the Edwardian era that Morris dancing began to be studied and taught at all systematically again. By this time, there were very few Morris groups – or "sides", to give them their proper term – that could trace an unbroken lineage back to medieval times. One such was Bampton in Oxfordshire, where – other than in times of national emergency – the Morris has been danced every Whitsun since the 1400s.

Popularity surge

Morris Men dancing with batons, 2005
Morris Men dancing with batons, 2005

Its present renaissance is very much a product of the past 50 years. Once thought embarrassingly silly by a younger, rebellious, postwar generation, it has once again found favour with young people. A little of its appeal may lie in its perceived relation to paganism, which might well chime with the alternative spiritualities of the New Age. The idea that it constitutes a form of popular recreation outside the prescribed norms of TV, computer gaming and the internet doubtless also exercises some appeal.

Most of all, though, Morris dancing is an ineradicable part of the English pastoral scene. Taking its place among real ale, village greens, the resurgence of cricket and warm summer days, it evokes a merry England far removed from troubled urban reality. An icon of England then, but also unashamedly an icon of fun.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Valuable drinking information for Christmas (or Saturnalia) Party

Sent to me by my daughter, today! How to survive the Party season!

SYMPTOM

FAULT

ACTION

Feet cold and wet.

Glass being held at incorrect angle.

Rotate glass so that open end points toward ceiling.

Feet warm and wet.

Improper bladder control.

Stand next to nearest dog, complain about house training.

Drink unusually pale and tasteless.

Glass empty.

Get someone to buy you another drink.

Opposite wall covered with fluorescent lights.

You have fallen over backward.

Have yourself lashed to bar.

Mouth contains cigarette butts.

You have fallen forward.

See above.

Alcohol tasteless, front of your shirt is wet.

Mouth not open, or glass applied to wrong part of face.

Retire to restroom, practice in mirror.

Floor blurred.

You are looking through bottom of empty glass.

Get someone to buy you another drink.

Floor moving.

You are being carried out.

Find out if you are being taken to another bar.

Room seems unusually dark.

Bar has closed.

Confirm home address with bartender.

Taxi suddenly takes on colourful aspect and textures.

Alcohol consumption has exceeded personal limitations.

Cover mouth.

Everyone looks up to you and smiles.

You are dancing on the table.

Fall on somebody cushy-looking.

Drink is crystal-clear.

It's water. Somebody is trying to sober you up.

Punch him.

Hands hurt, nose hurts, mind unusually clear.

You have been in a fight.

Apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them.

Don't recognize anyone, don't recognize the room you're in.

You've wandered into the wrong party.

See if they have free alcohol.

Your singing sounds distorted.

The drink is too weak.

Have more alcohol until your voice improves.

Don't remember the words to the song.

Drink is just right.

Play air guitar.

Io! Saturnalia!

Happy Saturnalia to you all! Yup, Christians weren't the only ones to have a midwinter celebration, the Romans got there first (maybe even others before them) with their Saturnalia festival which began today, 17th December, and runs through 'til 23rd December.

When it comes to festivals, parties, and downright debauchery, no one beats the folks of ancient Rome. Around the time of the winter solstice each year, they celebrated the festival of Saturnalia.

As the name implies, this was a holiday in honor of the agricultural god, Saturn. This week-long party typically began around December 17th, so that it would end right around the day of the solstice.

Fertility rituals were performed at the temple of Saturn, including sacrifices. In addition to the large public rites, many private citizens held ceremonies honoring Saturn in their homes. One of the highlights of Saturnalia was the switching of traditional roles, particularly between a master and his slave. Everyone got to wear the red pileus, or freedman's hat, and slaves were free to be as impertinent as they wished to their owners.

However, despite the appearance of a reversal of social order, there were actually some fairly strict boundaries. A master might serve his slaves dinner, but the slaves were the ones who prepared it -- this kept Roman society in order, but still allowed everyone to have a good time.

Businesses and court proceedings closed up for the entire celebration, and food and drink were everywhere to be had. Elaborate feasts and banquets were held, and it wasn’t unusual to exchange small gifts at these parties. A typical Saturnalia gift might be something like a writing tablet or tool, cups and spoons, clothing items, or food. Citizens decked their halls with boughs of greenery, and even hung small tin ornaments on bushes and trees.

Bands of naked revelers often roamed the streets, singing and carousing - a sort of naughty precursor to today's Christmas caroling tradition. The traditional greeting at a Saturnalia celebration is, "Io, Saturnalia!", with the "Io" being pronounced as "Yo." So next time someone wishes you a happy holiday, feel free to respond with "Io, Saturnalia!" After all, if you lived in Roman times, Saturn was the reason for the season!



Puts the office Christmas party in to a whole new context doesn't it!

Present for the cruiser with everything?

A kite camera, to film their boat like this...

Sunday, 16 December 2007

It's getting closer....

I have it on good authority that Santa is getting ready, the reindeer are in training and the pre-flight checks have started!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Excrutiating Christmas.

Fortunately we don't get UK telly here!

Why sailors make good writers.

Back in October I wrote about a new book,The Silence at the Song's End, written by the late Nicholas Heiney

Libby Purvis, his mother, talks on this audio file about her reasons for publishing and makes some interesting observations on why so many sailors write.

video

There is a wealth of nautical literature, ancient and modern, prose and poetry, fact and fiction. One of the many joys of cruising is having the time to 'devour' the books that I have always wanted to read...

A few titles that I have particularly enjoyed include : Voyaging the Pacific by Miles Hordern, Two Years before the mast by Richard Henry Dana and The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier.

There are literally hundreds more, from saga length expedition notes to small family cruising journals. Plenty of fuel for many more years of cruising reading for me!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Frogs...

It has been a busy couple of days here on the boat. Yesterday I joined the weekly run to Puerto Barrios for the final time, I promise, before Christmas. I very much enjoy the long drive to the town and accompanying the driver on his round of errands along the way. It's a sort of rather different tourist bus trip with a little retail therapy thrown in!

Marco, the dockmaster, was in charge yesterday. He has lived here on the Rio all his life and is the most valuable resource in the marina! If you want something done Marco knows where to find it, if it is to be found!As a tour guide he is also ace, answering all my inane questions about the things we see as we drive along the highway.

He has a mobile telephone that croaks like one of the local frogs instead of ringing. This bothers me! I am concerned as to whether it is the call of a male or female frog. One of these dark nights Marco is going to find himself surrounded by a large number of excited froggy creatures expecting a bit of a fun night out - I really hope he is ready for that event!!!

Watch out Marco, they could have a message for you!


I managed to fit in a breakfast at MacDonald's(!) as well as a good trolley loading session at the 'Maxi-Bodega'. Then we also visited the passport office on the Honduran Border, a machine shop to unjam a part of a cruiser's watermaker, paid the phone and electricity bills for the marina. Collected the ice cream for the tienda, collected the post and bought special electrical fittings! Phew! And that was all before lunch...

Admittedly a late lunch but still a pretty full days work.

This morning began early as we needed to get the laundry done, it had got to the point where not a single thing was clean, seems to happen every 10 days or so. I was eager to get first dibs on the machines so marched up to the laundry before 7am only too find the door locked, damm. Still didn't take too long to track down the key and get everything loaded.

There was a terrible smell of fuel on the water as we emerged from below, obviously somebody has a bad leak. You always hope that it isn't you in that situation! It's a real social faux pas to be the one polluting the water. I opened up the bilge to make sure we didn't have gallons of diesel sloshing around - no that was just the melt water from the ice in the refrigerator. Checked the fuel gauge, relief that agrees with the last reading so we haven't lost any from the main tank. TBH checked the fuel cans that we carry on deck, 4x20 litres diesel, only 2 full at the moment and no leaks there. 2x30 litre petrol, no leaks there. What a relief!

The marina staff are still out looking for the source of the spill and trying to contain the pollution as well as they can. Fortunately we have seen very few bad cases of pollution since we have been cruising, the odd fuel spill but nothing too serious on that front. The worst thing is the ever present plastic crap that floats around the world's oceans and is found swept up on even the most remote of beaches. As cruisers we take garbage disposal very seriously. All extraneous packaging is removed before goods are brought on board (essential for cockroach control too), and we repack many goods into reusable plastic storage bins.

When out cruising we carry all the garbage with us until a suitable disposal venue is found. Food scraps go over the side and, on long passages, we sink tin cans and glass bottles in deep water.

I well remember our first long cruise when we (read I) had failed to rinse of the food from the plastics that we were carrying in the trash bag at the back of the boat. Mistake! Ten days into a hot and humid cruise the bags came alive with wriggling white maggots! Yuck, nasty! Haven't made that error again! I still shudder at the memory.

And now for the todays Christmas moment. The school nativity play! Oh how well I remember those agonizing moments as the sprogs made their acting debuts .....

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Hugo Boss News.

This is the latest news from Hugo Boss. We just received an email from Pete and Anne saying that they(Alex and Andy) have slowed the boat a little to try and minimize any damage!

They are currently in 3rd place.

Tuesday 11th December 2007

Time: 16:00 GMT
Latitude: 50 24.22’ S
Longitude: 43 00.14’ E
Position: Third
Average speed: 16.5 knots

It was dreadful news to hear that the French boat Delta Dore lost her mast last night. What makes it worse is that they had to cut the whole mast away, as it was damaging the boat in the sloppy seas. This means that they have nothing left to make a jury rig and land is 800 nautical miles away. Both Capey and I really feel for co-skippers Sidney and Jérémie, and we wish them a safe trip north to South Africa. There are three boats now heading into port and Estrella Damm is the only one that looks like it will be able to rejoin the race. I wouldn’t bank on this being the end of it either, the stats suggest that nearly 50% of the boats will not finish this race so it is really important to not push too hard especially this far south and so far away from all rescue services. I was lucky last year when I lost my last boat that Mike Golding, a fellow competitor, was close enough to rescue me. If I had been forced to wait any longer for a rescue ship to arrive, I might not be here now.

It is getting even colder down here now and it’s blowing 25 to 30 knots. Snow flurries and sleet showers are a daily occurrence, and disaster struck yesterday when the heater broke, leaving us rather cold and grumpy. Today we have seen the sun for the first time in a while and after some technical advice about the heater from a fella called Toby, we are all warm and toasty again. Heat makes a big difference to life onboard, dry clothes, dry cabin, it completely changes the morale and thanks to our wind generator taking the load off our engine for charging the batteries, we have fuel to burn!

Capey and I are still chilling out at the moment and will do for a little while to come. When the conditions are appropriate we will put our foot on the gas, but for now we are preserving our energy and waiting.

On a lighter note..

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Tinsel and trash

Christmas is a time of giving. The cruisers' net every morning is currently requesting donations of toys for the local orphans for Christmas, these gifts must not need batteries or feeding! There is so much to give to, so much help needed here that it can become overwhelming when you think about it.

Many cruisers are doing great things to help in their own ways, medical, educational and so forth. I find the whole issue a profound and moving experience as well as a deeply disturbing personal journey. I would like to give toys to the kids but so often they are just more tinsel and trash and in a place where starvation is just a short step away from the riverbank it is easy to feel very inadequate.

TBH was born in Africa, Nyasaland as was, now called Malawi. He has lived in central and southern Africa , worked in the township of Soweto and visited the genocide ridden lands of Rwanda and Uganda. I turn to him regularly for sanity checks as I address my feelings about living in a poverty stricken country. His knowledge of the world helps me to find a way through my own experiences. I am very fortunate to have him!

Just recently we have been working our way through a clutch of films with an African theme to them, The Last King of Scotland, The Constant Gardener and last night Blood Diamond. The sense of futility of treating the symptoms and not the causes is massive and has tremendous parallels with the situation here in Guatemala.

For example: it's great to help the local children survive but that creates a different problem as families struggle to feed a family of fourteen that a few years ago would have only been six strong. The next step must be to provide better contraception. Jennifer, the ex-cruiser from Gringo Bay, is working hard on this issue.

These feelings are commonplace for anyone who embraces a very different third world culture such as we have here.

The cruising log of Northern Magic is fascinating in this respect not just because of the underlying and very tragic story of a Mum with cancer trying to maximize her remaining time with a family of three small boys but because of the way their cruising experience changed them and their children in a fashion they could never have anticipated.

They ended up raising money to support locals in Kenya. Providing education, economic and agricultural assistance in a small village. One of the sons however felt that he simply couldn't handle the magnitude of human suffering that he had seen. As I was looking at their website, and associated articles, just before I sat down to write this entry I was horrified to find that he was arrested for attempted murder of his father last year. He found it difficult to return to life in Canada and has never recovered from the experiences that he faced on their journey. Is this good or bad? This has to be a real risk of traveling. Do we become hardened and callous or does out heart grow till it eventually breaks in the face of real human tragedy on a vast scale.

I look at the abusing of young women here by aging gringo's, I read the report of human trafficking from Amnesty International, I listen to Debi's tales of suffering in the local surroundings, and I continue to ponder how I can make a difference.

TBH (the better half) believes that the best answers are systemic: treating the causes, building the solutions from the grassroots up. Two superb examples of this are the Micro-financing and the CAMFED initiatives. Micro-finance, pioneered by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus, is spreading across Latin America with the help of outstanding websites like matt.org.



The second example is CAMFED an organisation which works to extend girls' education, because educated mothers want more educated kids and the real hope for everyone in these societies, where it has become everyone for themselves, lies in having more skills and therefore more options to cope with the blows of life.



TBH is close to completing the project that he has devoted the last five years of his life to. Just one more problem, courtesy of Microsoft, to crack! We sincerely hope that this will be our contribution to helping the world to address some of the issues that lead to these gross injustices within cultures. Look out for the launch of Yalaworld early next year.

Now for something completely different, a Christmas fix!

This contemplative Irish poem, A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh, is perfect to meditate by... a different view of Christmas.