A Capella of Belfast Blogs

Tropical Islands – hopefully with pictures this time!

As I write this we are sitting in Tobago Cays – it is the ultimate tropical anchorage – crystal clear water, turtles, bright sunlight, white sand, amazing snorkelling was. We have travelled from St. Lucia where we picked up Helen (cheap flights from Manchester) and then to the Grenadines and have been to Bequia, Mustique, Union Island and Tobago Cays. Each one has been different but all just wonderful. I now understand why this is such a great and popular cruising ground. Wonderful locations and constant steady winds broadly from the same direction. We did have a tough sail north from Bequia back to St Lucia – close hauled and tacking with up to 30 knots of wind. The boat performed well.

St Lucia – lush, green and busy. We were very pleasantly surprised by St Lucia as we had had some security concerns but actually it was rather lovely. Provisioning was excellent and reasonably priced again to our surprise – Branston pickle available! We stayed at Rodney Bay marina and hired a car to pick up Helen from the airport in the south so had a good drive through the island.

Bequia – a serious holiday island. Amazingly we had bearly set foot on Bequia when we met Tim and Anne Parsons – friends and neighbours from Fromes Hill. They were wonderful and gave us the full tour of the island and info on all the best watering holes.

Mustique – a very expensive and exclusive holiday island. It is a privately owned and very manicured but peaceful and beautiful. We didn’t knowingly meet anyone rich and famous but we did host a party for the local bats! They were either attracted to the boat by our fruit, or night time midges were attracted to the fruit which then attracted the bats. Either way they had a party, ate our bananas and made a terrible mess. We found one dead one in the dinghy afterwards – I struggled to feel too sorry for it while clearing up!

Union Island. We met Krabat and Lady Jane (boats from the rally) here and had a great evening catching up.

Tobago Cays – these are really reefs and tiny uninhabited islands – the sort of islands you imagine when you listen to desert island discs. We had some great snorkelling with our friends from Krabat and the setting was picture post card perfect.

Other things

  • Clearing in. This is something new. In every new country we have to clear in and clear out. Some islands do this by computer others by paper with carbon copies, and others by writing out the same information many times. It is always slow or very slow. Beware Brexit.
  • Catermarans, of which there are many, do occasionally put their sails up.
  • Boat boys are colourful and always go fast, but they are generally helpful and always have something to sell.
  • Decent WiFi has become a pre occupation and constant battle – frequently solved by going to the local hostelry.
  • Weston’s cider has reached Mustique. Mustique is the sort of place you can get anything at a price, but really pleasing to see Weston’s cider on the menu. We boosted sales.
  • Taking photos of fish underwater is very tricky – I did occasionally capture one or two!
  • The dinghy has been taking a bashing from dinghy docks and the sun. In Mustique it was nearly sunk by the swell and neighbouring dinghys bashing into it on the dinghy dock. We have purchased some chaps – dinghy covers to help protect it. This seems to be the dinghy fashion around here and a very good idea.
  • I have learnt to do panoramic views on my camera.

We are now heading back to Martinique so that the final snagging and some boat improvements can be finished and then heading to Antiqua possibly for race week. Hopefully we will fit in Gandaloupe and Dominic.

Martinique – French, green and often surprisingly wet!

When we arrived in Martinique it was the first time that we had been attached to land for 7 weeks. The normality of Martinique – very European – has been most welcome.

We spent the 10 days in Le Marin marina sorting out repairs and some boat improvements. This is the home of catamarans – they are just everywhere. Julian has been impressed with the chandlers – you can get nearly anything here albeit at a price! Additional stuff has been purchased – but not too much as the boat is rather full. Prize purchases to add to our comfort are a new BBQ and lights for the cockpit. Using candles and hurricane lamps every evening was getting a little tedious so we can now just switch on!

Amazingly we meet fellow members of the RNIYC – Phil and Norma of Minnie B who have sailed around the world for 9 years in the marina. We had supper with them and they were most helpful giving us some great ideas and introducing us to the world of the Ocean Cruising Club. We also met up with fellow rally mates Chris of Pogo frame, Luna Bay, Infinity and Finally.

We hired a car for the weekend and did some hiking in the Jungle. This is very different and closer to climbing than walking. The fauna and flora is quite amazing – the scale of the leaves enormous.

After leaving the marina we have travelled to various anchorages:

  • St. Anne’s by Le Marin – lovely but very busy.
  • Fort de France – the capital but not our sort of place.
  • Grande Anse D’Arlet – a lovely Bay and very socialable as many of the rally boats had migrated here and we met up with OCC members. We had a great walk among Mangroves and saw many orange crabs who lived in holes and darted in the minute they heard you coming. Great Snockeling.
  • St Pierre – St Pierre lies at the foot of Mt. Pelee volcano. Mt Pelee erupted in 1902 and killed 30,000 inhabitants in 3 minutes. There were 2 survivors – a cobbler and Louis- August’s Cyparis who was imprisoned for murder. Many ruins still remain. The volcano is still active and presents a magnificent setting although the summit does always seem to be in cloud. We also visited a rum distillery – Depaz and now are the proud owners of a bottle. Rum is definitely the whisky of the Caribbean and a visit to a distillery is a must. I have to say the setting was magnificent and it had a chateau just like in France. In case you are curious Depaz rum is unique because of the volcanic soils were the sugar cane is grown!

Other surprising things

  • It seems to rain everyday and it is torrential. We have bought an umbrella! Apparently the dry season is coming and we are looking froward to this.
  • There is a new form of sailboarding akin to flying!
  • Fishermen putting sugarcane in the water – not sure what that is about.
  • Every cow has an accompanying white heron/egret even inland.
  • Bananas are grown in plastic bags – I guess this is for bug protection and an alternative to polytunnels.
  • We met Kevin from Sussex who sailed from UK in a minimalist 50 year old, 26 ft Nicholson boat with most things broken and even survived hurricane Marie anchored of Martinique – some people are just tougher and braver than us.
  • Boats that look under the water have to look weird – it just goes with the territory.
  • The green flash that you can see when the sun goes down- I have seen it once.
  • Wine boxes of rum. Rum punches are a potential bad habit we really do not need.
  • Large Pelican- like birds diving for fish. Very similar to a gannet but not as elegant. Julian is tasked with taking a picture.
  • And finally sitting on our anchorage, watching the sun go down, listening to some great jazz from the shore which is now at the right volume for us to enjoy.

We are now heading to St Lucia to pick up Helen Philips and then to the Grenadines.

Barbados for Christmas

The aim was always Barbados for Christmas with the boys and we have had a great time. Marie, Tristan’s girlfriend also joined us which was a special treat. We are now in Martinique – which is just delightful. The pilot book describes Martinique as a breathe of civilisation. No offence to Barbados but it is very welcome. We spent 20 days on anchor in Barbados and we were completely self sufficient but beach landings are nearly always wet and sometimes rather too exciting. The battle against sand and water assaults to our technology has resulted in one phone down – not too bad!

Oliver and Stuart were with us for 10 more days after arriving in Barbados. Activities included probably too many welcome/leaving socials including many rum punches. Importantly Stuart ensured that our fishing kit was suitably upgraded and organised a fishing trip where the lures and lines were up to the job and we duly caught big fish. Oliver organised a clear up of the Careenage and reached the local newspaper. We also enjoyed some sight seeing and in particular visiting a magnificent flower forest. We were very lucky to see baby turtles hatch and make their epic journey to the sea. This happened just along the beach were we had walked daily. At our anchorage “Terry” turtle also visited daily which was delightful.

The boys were with us for ten days. We celebrated a Swedish Xmas with a Xmas eve party on the boat and then normal Xmas with lunch at the local hotel followed by racing on Boxing Day. Activities included sub aqua diving, swimming, and sightseeing.

The Trans Atlantic trip

The journey so far Cherbourg to Barbados

8We have arrived in Barbados!  15 days at sea – 2200nm – moving continuously, rolling continuously, nothing to see but sea, no google, no viruses, and our own time zone – an unique experience.  We have lived well – good company, good food, very warm and all very safe and comfortable.

Sailing – we have sailed virtually all the way.  At the beginning we had to motor for a couple of days as no wind.  Our strategy of going south to 12N proved right as there were better winds here.  Our sail plan was poled out jib plus staysail and main and after a problem with the main we used poled out jib and staysail with trysail – this all worked really well although created many ropes.  The winds ranged from 10 to 20 knots and on our fastest day we averaged 7.7kts and covered 186 miles.  Squalls featured on a couple of days – bizarrely some heavy rain seemed welcome and cleaned the decks.   We experienced problems with weed.

Fishing.  Stuart was chief fisherman and his enthusiasm cannot be faulted, but sadly our kit was not man enough for the job.  These are big fish and they trashed our lures and lines on numerous occasions.  We saw and had hooked large king mackerels or possibly tuna but were unable to reel them in.  Lure making was continuous and the homemade super squid proved a hit and caught 4 dorado.

Stocks.  It was a sad day when the tea pig mint tea bags and the Branston ran out.  The bananas were excellent but stocks didn’t quite last the trip.  The beer and wine stocks were sufficient albeit the white wine box was dubious and renamed chateau Petronius on account of its petrol aftertaste.  We enjoyed some Champagne at half way and some Chateau Leoville Barton at three quarters way.  Cuisine has been excellent and included Roast Chicken, curry, Mexican breakfast, chilli and panned fried dorado, Mediterranean salad and homemade bread.

Generalactivity – books, sunbathing, sleeping, technology, a matinee, endless skipper’s jobs, photography, art, scrabble, whipping and knots, swimming in 4000m, night watches – looking at the night sky.  The water maker has proved invaluable and we have showered daily and used the washing machine.

. The

Cape Verdes

We leave the Cape Verdes tomorrow for Barbados.  We have really enjoyed our time here.  The country is very third world and reprovisioning  has been a challenge – I don’t suppose we will fade away but the cuisine may be rather limited at the end.  We have washed our fruit in an attempt to avoid cockroaches but our French neighbours were rather more diligent.   On one island the scenery was spectacular – photos attached.

La Corunna in the sunshine

Finally crossed Biscay! No photos of that as not really a photo moment – big seas and winds.  Philippe and Jon Luc, our French skippers certainly knows how to do Biscay and were great.  Now well rested and motoring in glorious sunshine just of La Corunna and actually we would love a bit more wind!  A bit of mending this morning on the boom brake and Julian’s tools came into their own.  There are many of them, but I am told you cannot have too many!  Should be round Cape Finisterre this evening and heading South.

Slow progress

Storm Ophelia and her mates are slowing our progress across Biscay and onto the Canaries.  We have had a successful 24 hr trip with our French crew from Cherbourg to Camaret sur Mer where we were storm bound.  Julian and I then took the boat onto Concarneau where we are again storm bound.  Moored with the fishing boats so hopefully some excellent fish tomorrow.  The weather is very changeable but we think there is an opportunity to cross Biscay early next week.  It is all a little frustrating but all is well and the boat performing.

Great walking week in Pembrokeshire 

We walked 70 miles from Dale to Strumble Head camping as we went.  This is a fabulous coastline but distinctly unfriendly to boats.  Sadly it was a very foggy day when we passed Ramsey sound, and we were unable to see the Island, and so not able to study the fierce tidal streams from the safety of land.

We had to return home to sell the electric car.  A fond fare well, but something else off the list of jobs.

Construction of A Capella of Belfast

June 2017

Construction of A Capella of Belfast is now underway and the hull arrived at the Allures factory in Cherbourg for fitting out in early June. Julian visited Cherbourg on the 14th and 15th of June to discuss a few details and to see our new boat. She looks magnificent with all her shiny aluminium hull construction clearly visible:


Visit to Allures in Cherbourg

27 2 17

On Tuesday February 14th Patricia and I traveled to Portsmouth to take the ferry to Caen.  We had booked the night sailing so we took the opportunity to visit HMS Victory in the afternoon and then a very enjoyable early supper with an old friend who lives in Portsmouth.  The night crossing was uneventful and we arrived at the Allures factory at 09:00.  We spent a busy day with Francois from Allures fine tuning our specification and inspecting 45.9 # 1 which is now complete and about to be rigged and launched.

We drove back to Caen in the late afternoon and stopped off at Omaha beach.  Imagining the troops landing on the beach and facing machine gun fire from the cliffs above was very sobering.DSCF1155


Following an overnight stay in Caen and then the morning ferry, we arrived back in Portsmouth at 14:00 on Thursday.