Sunday, January 16, 2011


Rum Punches and Pina Coladas

3rd - 15th January 2011

After a  rather short, ( we stayed up till about 2am  celebrating our arrival) and broken  night’s sleep, (we had one ear  listening to the VHF for when ‘Tehani Li” and “Samsara” arrived), we awoke to the long awaited sight  of  a white sand beach and the sparkling azure waters of Carlisle bay, Bridgetown.  It was a welcome sight after a couple of weeks of staring at nothing but endless ocean.
 Not wanting to be caught in a queue, we were up early to move the boat over to the customs dock for our check-in.  Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, isn’t very well set up to process yachts as precious few stop here after an Atlantic passage. Most seem to push on the extra 90 miles to one of the other islands, which in our opinion is a bit of a shame as it is a lovely island and way too hard to beat back to once you’ve gone past. The port area is designed to accommodate the many cruise ships that call in on their routes around the Caribbean islands and the docks are tall concrete and very user unfriendly for the likes of us. As we had heard that there can be quite a surge in the harbour we enlisted the help of the crew from “Stardust” to help hold ourselves off from the wall while Liam took the boat papers into the officials. Check in was very easy and you pay a flat charge of $ 50 US when you leave.

The gap between the  cruise ships  is the customs dock

Karel takes a big leap down to "Tehani - Li" 

With the formalities taken care of it was time to chill out and soak up what we had sailed thousands of miles to find. The first few days we were still very very tired and having a little siesta in the arvo was not uncommon.
Over the next 12 days we explored the island, swam and snorkeled in the clear waters, caught up with friends and exchanged stories of our passages.

Dinner at the yacht club

Catching up on the beach

A wonderful setting  and easy pace at the B Y C

A  rather bland  enterance, but a great place to  eat.

Brigetown is a myriad of small streets with lots and lots of shops but strangely, very few restaurants.    (Well we didn’t find too many). That may well be because most of the tourists are either staying in resorts to the north or south of town or are from one of the cruise ships.

Colourful wares in the backstreets of town

Hats are the fashion  here, especially for the boys

South of town and only a short taxi ride away  the area of St Lawrence Gap has lots of  bars,  pubs,  restaurants and shops and looks much  more of a happening place for night time outings.
We found the majority of people very friendly, often greeting us with a cheerful “Welcome to Barbados” or striking up a short conversation as you walk down the street. This was such a nice change from the European countries where people just seem way too busy for everyday pleasantries. 
.After being cooped up on the boat for a few weeks it was “time to get out of Dodge”, so in true cruiser spirit  we gathered up a few friends, (Stardust, Samsara, No Rehearsal’s kids Jay and Lisa, and Benoit from Tehani –Li) and booked a day trip around the island. Our driver/ guide was a nice fellow named Antonio who had been recommended to us by the chief of port security. Antonio certainly new his stuff and was a fountain of knowledge giving us the history and statistics of just about everything we saw.

 Driving up the west coast the beautiful beaches, golf courses and luxury resorts where rock stars and royalty holiday were stunning. Homes of the rich and famous including those of Sean Connery and Cliff Richards were amongst the mansions in the huge estate parks of the coastal towns around Holetown and Speightstown .These areas were such a contrast to the ramshackle houses of Bridgetown that it was hard to believe we were on the same island.

Not quite the abode of the rich & famous

The small church of St James

Inside the church

We had a brief  but interesting stop at the small church of St James which was built back in 1628. The interior of beautiful mahogany has been immaculately maintained and lucky for us the curator was on hand to give us a little of the church’s history as well.

The boys in our troupe must have looked a bit bored in the church, so with Antonio sensing this and guessing correctly that our men folk could be a tad thirsty he suggested that we pull over for quick refreshment stop at a tiny beach bar along the way. The boys chatted with a few of the locals, though the tread of the conversation was a little lost at times and the girls perused the fishermen’s catch of the day on display at the back of the bar.

Lisa & Jay
David  chatting with one of the locals

Good size Tunas

After stretching the legs it was back into the van and from here we turned inland, the road zig zagging through sugarcane fields, and rolling hills till we arrived on the east coast of the island where we stopped for lunch. Unbeknown to us at this time, a major delicacy on any Bajaan menu is the humble Flying Fish and had we realized just how good they were we certainly would have been cooking up all the unfortunate ones that have landed on our decks over the past years!

These flying fish were destined for the table
Another specialty, which seemed rather out of place to us, was  macaroni pie. “Pie” as it is called by the locals, seems to be served with just about any dish you can imagine, a bit like how the English love their chips.
The drive down the rugged east coast was beautiful and we passed many lovely beaches including a major surfing one named the “soup bowl” but to be honest none of our party really gave a rats about looking out at the ocean we had just spent weeks crossing.

( L & R) The rugged east coast

Our happy group of tourists
We made a few other stops including the sea side town of “Oistins” famous for its fish frys (bbq) and then it was back to the boats. We had a great day out and would recommend an island tour to anyone following in our wake.

Colourful fish fry restaurants

Local chefs cooking up a storm at the  fish fry

Playing dominos was a popular pastime

Some other highlights of our time in Barbados included :
  • Having a great time one Saturday arvo with the gang from “No Rehearsal” at the horse races. Unfortunately our betting skills leave a lot to be desired and we left the track with lighter pockets than we would have liked.
  • Snorkeling and diving the four shallow wrecks that were teeming with sea life and lying right on our doorstep in Carlisle bay. A quick 2 minute dinghy ride and it was all there in front of us.
  • Swimming with lots of turtles big and small just off the beach where we were anchored. Now that was cool and something that we had never done before AND they were often spotted swimming just off our transoms as well.
  • Watching the race horses swim out past GWTW everyday as part of their exercise regime. We reckon that they swim better than they run!
  • Enjoying a meal or two and sipping   pina coladas and rum punches under the trees in the laid back surroundings of the “Barbados Yacht Club”.
  • Sitting on the beach with our friends and watching the” Green Flash” happen while partaking in sundowners and chomping down fresh sushi, compliments of the Japanese crew of “Harmony”.
  • Riding a local taxi full of Bajans with the “Rasta “music blaring.
  • Finally cracking our bottle of 1985 Dom Peringon that we had put on board when we left Australia in April 2006, and it still tasted great.

But the big thing that really stands out about our time on this island was being there to welcome our friends, share in the huge sense of achievement and join in the camaraderie that goes hand in hand when you’ve just crossed one of the world’s most famous oceans.

So after the best part of two weeks it’s still hard to believe that we were finally in the Caribbean.

 The trade winds are a blow’n and the rum punch is a flow’n.
What a way to celebrate !
 Guess we’ll just have to get used to it..  mon!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 19

Our noon position on the 2nd of January 2011 was 13.0 N / 57.34 W. Our noon to noon run from 01/01/2011 was 153 miles.

Sunday 2nd January 2011

"The Final Countdown".

Sea birds and fishing trawlers are always a good sign that land is just over the horizon, and we've seen both today.
The wind god's have once again been playing games with us, sometimes there is zip wind and then it strengthens back up to around 15kts.
After motoring for a couple hours last night, ever so slowly the wind built. Early morning saw the mainsail creeping up the mast again. Five  days of rest  was enough. Time to give it one last run before arriving into Barbados. With the jib keeping the main in check for most of the day, the afternoon saw the wind backing towards the north, so it was time to bring out the big guns, aka the screecher. Scooting along with good speeds, this was only the second time since leaving the Cape Verde Islands that we have been able to sail on a beam reach, conditions that are right up our alley.
The seas appear to be calming down and we are now getting lovely long slow swells, a pleasant change from the washing machine effect that we were in yesterday
Not long ago the fishing line "pinged" and we pulled in a 4ft blue marlin. She was a fighter and  took a fair amount of energy to land. As we watched her lying calmly on the transom  with her beautiful colour and sleek form, neither of us had the heart to keep her. After a little minor surgery to remove the hook she was released back to the care of Mother Ocean.
Just to beautiful to keep,Liam lets this one go
Our evening radio sked reported that "Stardust" and "No Rehearsal" are snug as bugs at anchor in Bridgetown, congratulations to them both for making landfall."GWTW", "Samsara" and "Tehani Li" are with in a couple of miles of each other and should all be on the anchor before dawn."White Rose" has found a windless part of the ocean, as we all have at various times and have been motoring for the last 15 hours. They have just over 500 miles to run, approx 3-4 days.
With only 50 miles to landfall and the wind doing its usual stuff, getting lighter, we furled in the screecher and hoisted the kite. Coasting along nicely with a 12 kt breeze doing 9's and 10's suddenly there was a bang and we watched our lovely kite nose dive into the sea. Liam quickly turned the boat to port, effectively blocking the wind and stopping the boat from running over the pretty green and white spinnaker. Annie, the sure footed mountain goat that she is, bounded to the foredeck and started pulling a very soggy kite back on board. Liam wrestled with his end and soon it was back on the deck with no damage. During the commotion the starboard fishing line had become tangled around the port rudder, so on with the mask and snorkel and into the 29 degree water Liam plunged. The lure had become wedged at the tip of the rudder but with a bit of persuasion he was able to free it.
A post incident inspection revealed that the kite halyard was chaffed through just where it sits on the turning block at the hounds.
 We now have a ball of wet salty fabric sitting on the foredeck and a halyard trapped inside the mast.
 Just as an aside, earlier in the day, Samsara also dropped their kite in the water but they are unsure at this time as to whether the cause was the snap shackle or the halyard letting go. "No Rehearsal" had the exact same problem a few days ago.
 Guess that's one more job for the "to do" list.
We continued the rest of the way under mainsail and screecher.
Sunset seemed to linger in the sky just a little longer than usual tonight as if beckoning us toward the Caribbean. The colours were just wonderful, oranges, pinks and yellows with a dusky blue sky above. "Red sky at night, a sailor's delight" Picture perfect for the end of an Atlantic crossing.

Barbados was just beyond the horizon
In the distance the twinkling lights of Barbados are just coming into view. As the night gets darker the nav strobes of arriving and departing aircraft can be easily seen. A large ship is steaming towards the island just a few miles off our port side and the familiar white flash of a lighthouse confirms that we are on track for the signal station at the bottom of the island. More and more lights are now appearing, it's sensory overload after nearly 2 weeks at sea when the only lights we'd see were the occasional ship and the stars above.

At 2325 we called up Bridgetown signal station to announce our arrival and request permission to anchor in Carlisle bay. The well spoken gentleman was more than happy to grant our request.
With that formality complete… We have finished our Atlantic Ocean crossing….and  have  officially arrived in Bridgetown Barbados.
A few minutes later we arrived in the anchorage where Stardust were waiting to greet us . We put the anchor down , cleaned up and popped the bubbly ( and a VB for Liam).

                                     Journey's end. We have arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados

A couple of interesting statistics…

Total passage log  read… 3,153 miles.
Total hours at sea from the Canary Islands to Bridgetown  Barbados, excluding our  down time  in the Cape Verde Islands,  was …17 days 19 hours and 35 minutes.
Average speed… 7.37 kts. ( it was a slow trip)

Well, what a mixed bag of emotions we have right now. It's really hard to put all those feelings into words. Annie shed a few tears of joy and we both shared feelings of enormous relief and satisfaction in actually getting here. Considering the Caribbean has been a serious focal point for some years, it really does represent a fantastic milestone for us,similar to the Red Sea and  the Med, but with no places to stop along  the way.  Having completed our longest passage so far, and realizing we are now in a totally different environment of cultures and climates, we sense a genuine feeling of change.
This is not the Med, it's a diverse combination of  American/African/Latino people living in a bunch of small countries on islands scattered over a relatively short distance. We are swapping ancient walled cities, numerous cathedrals and countless Roman ruins for vast stretches of golden, sandy beaches, lots of palm trees, pina coladas, lobsters, 'till you're sick of them, and noisy steel drum bands…bring it on!
And so a new chapter in our cruising life begins...
Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Atlantic Crossing - Day 18

Our noon position on 1/01/2011 was 12.56 N /55.00 W. Our noon to noon run from the 31/12/2010 was 164 miles.

Saturday 1st January. 2011
New Year's Day, and we are still at sea.

As the clock stuck midnight, Liam popped the cork on the bubbly and our radio crackled into life as Becky from 'Stardust " wished everyone a "Happy New Year". The chorus of well wishes continued as our small group celebrated bringing in the New Year Atlantic Ocean style. On GWTW we sipped our half glass of chilled champagne whilst dancing  under the stars to our old time favorite  boppy tune, the Bee Gees's "Alone". Everyone had hoped to be in Barbados for New Years Eve but that wasn't to be. So there will have to be some serious partying once the gang arrives.

The combination of fresh sea air and the first day of January have brought us renewed appetites and today was a day of serious eating.
 A hearty breakfast is a great way to celebrate the start of the new year and even though our trusty bbq, Liam's preferred method of cooking, has been in hibernation all this trip, we still managed to cook up the full catastrophe in the galley with lashings of tasty bacon, free range eggs and vine ripened tomatoes washed down with the remainder of our champagne cocktails. Now that certainly kept the wolf from the door for the next few hours. Did I say a few hours? Come late afternoon it was time to put the nose bag on again.  Lunch,(like we  really needed more food!), was lightly seasoned,  gently pan fried, sumptuous fillets of recently caught Mahi Mahi served with crisp potato wedges and a fresh garden salad complete with Sicilian sun dried tomatoes , Greek Feta and luscious mango cheeks. A small glass of fruity Portuguese white wine complemented the meal perfectly. Needless to say no dinner, supper or any other food was required for the remainder of the day.

Our daily mileage runs are getting lower and lower as the winds stay light. What happened to  the steady north east trades that were advertised in the brochure !!!

As of this morning's radio sked the distance to run to Barbados of the boats that we are keeping tabs on was "Stardust",( they did jump the gun by 3 days) 82 miles, "No Rehearsal" 120 miles, "GWTW" 231 miles, "Tehani Li" 240miles, and "White Rose" 640 miles.

Our GPS track shows that we are nearly in Barbados

It's been another frustrating day out here on the course. Those ahead are reporting 20kt wind speeds and squalls while back here in the "private windless hole" GWTW  and Tehani Li" are lucky to be getting 10kts, hardly enough to keep the kite full. We may have to resort to horse power yet again. The sea is very sloppy, making for rolly conditions and with little wind  the temperatures are hot. A quick dip in the ocean hasn't been ruled out yet.

Tonight the radar is showing lots of squalls around us, and there are towering clouds with the tell tale signs of rain on the horizon, so as a precaution  the kite has come down. We sure don't fancy tearing it at this late stage of the journey. A fresh water boat wash wouldn't go astray and it would be great to fill our water tanks as well.                                       

                                                       There were squalls in front and behind us

So for the next little while until the wind starts to fill in again we will be listening to the hypnotic sounds of our trusty yanmar engine thumping away.

Apologies from "the land crew"

Just a quickie from "Team Balvenie" the land crew doing the updates. We are in Verbier (Switzerland) skiing and having a great time but very very limited email access so have updated what I have below, sorry for delay. Happy New Year everyone from Amanda and Mark.

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 17

Our noon position on 31/12/2010 was 13.00 N / 52.13 W. Our noon to noon run from the 30/12 was 154 miles.

Friday 31st Decembe 2010
New Year's Eve.

We are happy to say that one more thing has been ticked off the GWTW list for 2010…the elusive "green flash". Watching the sun dip below the horizon last evening the sky went all the usual colours but with a big green tinge. Yep we reckon that at last we have seen it. The flash was something we have strained to see for years, now we'll probably see it every other day!
It's been an interesting 24 hours on board GWTW. Friday morning marked a significant change to our sail plan…we actually unpacked and hoisted our beloved kite, before breakfast!!. We have been running close to dead downwind for days now, certainly not our best angle of sailing, and it has seen us slip well behind "No Rehearsal" and come under serious challenge from "Tehani Li". In fact after catching her yesterday afternoon, the latter nosed past us last night under kite and poled out jib. So bringing the coloured sail out of retirement was welcomed with anticipation, and we weren't disappointed. It took most of the day but we again managed to reel in "Tehani Li", passing within  meters of each other.
We both thought it pretty neat that, after over 1600 miles at sea in the Atlantic Ocean, we crossed wakes close enough to have a chat and wish happy new year to another yacht, and an Aussie one at that. Naturally the opportunity for lots of happy snaps was not to be missed.

We took photos of them & they took photos of  us.Phil was happy when we were behind.

We now have around 150 miles to go to Barbados  and the evening  has seen us reaching along nicely at 8-10 kts.
 With steady winds forecast for the next few days we are still on schedule  to arrive in Bridgetown late Sunday, more than likely it will beat night.
With "Stardust" and "No Rehearsal" due there early Sunday we will have some forward scouts, so finding a good spot to drop the anchor shouldn't be a problem.

So far we have had a pretty trouble free trip, sailing fairly conservatively overall. It does appear though that one of our hot water tanks or the element inside , which is more likely, may have corroded. Brown water is coming from the hot water taps, but that's not too bad, we do have a second tank in the starboard hull. Hopefully can replace the offending part ( the element is  240 v) in the Caribbean.

Tonight is a big night for us…yep, it's New Year's Eve. We plan on cracking the obligatory bottle of bubbly at midnight (local time) and partaking in some festive spirit. The party is very exclusive though, being just the two of us, and we will be somewhat limited in our alcohol  consumption, but we'll have fun.

 2010 has been a great year for us, we have been to some fantastic places, met  wonderful people and made some long lasting  friendships One thing is for sure,  at midnight we will be raising our glasses and  toasting to family and all our friends, new  and old ...wherever  you may be.

From Annie and Liam on GWTW we wish you all a safe, happy and healthy 2011.

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 16

Our noon position on 30/12/2010 was 13.13 N /49.36 W. Our noon to noon run from 29/12 was 150 miles.

Thursday 30th December.

The ever shrinking moon, now only a crescent, is not  rising until the early hours of the morning, leaving  us ample time for stargazing and contemplating life while enjoying the balmy breezes on watch. It's a very peaceful pastime and one which we saver for the nights when the city backlights obscure the beautiful night sky.
In good weather, sailing at night is the most wonderful experience. Tonight is one of those nights.

Our trusty radar shows no signs of squalls as we head down through 13 degrees south. It maybe short lived but it's a pleasant change. The wind again is soft and the sea pretty calm.

The daylight hours revealed a sunny clear blue sky, the first cloudless day since leaving the Cape Verde's and that's how it stayed all day long. Beautiful sailing conditions prevailed with light easterlies and gentle swells nugging the transoms and pushing us slowly along.

After 1500 miles the outline of "Tehani Li's" sails popped up over the horizon a few hours ago and she is now  clearly visible a couple of miles down to leeward carrying her kite and poled out jib. So nice to be sailing in company again after all this time and it will make for an interesting night if the breeze stays light.

Ahead and to windward 'No Rehearsal" continues to hold the lead. Last night they reported that a forward hatch on the inside of their port hull failed and the sea began to poor in. Daryl, quick as a flash, secured it closed by screwing plywood across it, to it and any other way that he could to stop the flow of water. They are now taking it pretty steady for the obvious reasons. This is the second failure of an inner hull hatch this year on the Catana. No doubt they will be taking up the issue with the hatch manufacturer! On the 1800 radio sked they mentioned that their day has been spent enjoying the companionship of a whale that has been swimming alongside and under their trampolines for some hours. What a spectacular sight, can't wait to see the photos.
The end of another day at sea and time for a sundowner

Sunset has rolled around again so it's time to break open the bar and have that well earned beverage of choice. With such a clear horizon there is an excellent chance of seeing the "Green Flash".

It would be great to tick that one off the list before the end of 2010