Archive for the Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey) Category

Reflections on the sail here and playing vinte-e-um

Posted in Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey), Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags on June 20, 2011 by maidofmettle

Since I’m thinking about when to leave for the Azores this seems a good time to look back on the sail here. I’ll definitely catch up on my time in Madeira though – there are lots of fun things and photos to share (hopefully that will make up for this one, unfortunately I’ve used all the good pictures and video from the trip). In fact, you’re liable to get overwhelmed with blog posts.. ahahahaha…

It really didn’t feel like it took a week to sail from Las Palmas to here. While the last few days were difficult, I could have happily gone on for a long time with the light winds of the first few days. It was beautifully peaceful, and I didn’t find isolation a problem at all.

Gear failures at sea – Horace doesn’t really count since by the time I noticed it I didn’t need him any more, but the outboard bracket was certainly a problem, even if it did turn out to be solvable with two bits of wood and a hammer. The next issue will quite possibly be different, but having faced and overcome one such problem is definitely a better starting place than before. Believing that you can and will solve a problem is definitely important.

I think I’ve also overcome any issues I had about not wanting to call and ask someone else for advice. At work I would certainly advise someone not to reinvent the wheel on their own if someone else had relevant experience, so if the option is available, why should sailing be different? Obviously sometimes it may not be, but I’ll deal with that if it happens.

The fast sailing on days 5 and 6 was, looking back on it now, really not in very bad conditions at all compared to some of our other trips. While Maid was racing over the waves and occasionally getting the foredeck rather wet, there were no breaking waves, and no crashing into waves making the whole boat shake, and there wasn’t a sense of the wind or waves increasing further.

I didn’t feel sea-sick – and was basically fine when I was looking around outside, reading, cooking or working at the chart table. But trying to sleep or even just relax was difficult, and that probably made the following day harder than it would have been otherwise.

I probably will get those conditions, or worse, again, and hopefully having experienced it and dealt with challenging conditions following it once will stand me in good stead. Furthermore, I probably would get used to it gradually over a longer period of time.

More sleep probably wouldn’t have helped much the next day though – a boat slamming around in a choppy sea with no wind is always going to be a horrible experience, especially if there’s no prospect of a quick end to it. I suppose the couple of brief fits of screaming or sobbing (ahem) might have been avoided, but I’m not certain. I definitely don’t think getting used to those conditions is likely. Try and avoid them and hope I’ll cope better next time, I guess..

It’s possible, though, that I might have made better decisions and avoided it by tacking back and forth before getting to that stage and approaching the eastern end of Madeira, which is lower and blocks the wind much less. I’d expected the wind might go slack, but not that far out, but I hadn’t anticipated the sea state at all. So hopefully I’ll do that better in the future, tired or not.

That said, I’m still not entirely sure of the best way to get away from Madeira itself – not part of the journey I’m really looking forward to. Going west is likely to involve headwinds and then no wind, with the possibility of a nasty chop like that I met coming here. Going east is similar but just more headwinds, and the risk that on rounding the corner to head west again I might stray into the upwind ‘wind shadow’ where wind is being deflected up over the island, with no shelter whatsoever from waves.

But I think I’ll take the latter route, and just make sure I gain plenty of ground to windward before turning to reduce that possibility. I might make an intermediate stop at the eastern end of the island, as sailing near land is definitely more demanding than where there’s very little around to hit.

But the main reason I haven’t left is that for the last fortnight, ever since I fixed the wind vane, there’s been an incredibly stable strip of water with next to no wind acting as an irritating barrier for travelling from here to the the Azores (of course, while I was stuck waiting for suitable wind to get from Las Palmas to here there were beautiful winds between here and the Azores), and it’s forecast to persist for another week or more.

Other boats heading the same way have dismissed it as ‘only 70 miles or so’, but for me motoring that isn’t really an option – it would probably take a couple of days of continuous shifts, hand-steering with the engine on whenever I wasn’t eating or sleeping.

Part of me thinks it’s daft to delay leaving on the say of a forecast for a week in advance, when there’s no really strong wind in it, just the probability of too little. But if that’s been the forecast consistently for the last fortnight it does give it some credence.. and as I’ve said above, sitting around in no wind is really not pleasant.

But it is a lot more likely that I will get favourable wind from here to the Azores than it was from Las Palmas to here. There I was frequently wondering if I should go even when it didn’t look very good, because I wasn’t confident it would look better anytime soon.

It’s very much like playing blackjack, or vingt-et-un, or vinte-e-um, or whatever you like to call it – do I go with this light wind forecast, or do I gamble on waiting for a bit more, hoping I don’t go bust by getting too much and end up waiting again? And with the marina price here being several times that in Las Palmas, possibly going bust in a different way.

Though I do need to find out what the units are before I push this metaphor too much. 21 knots is more than I’d like. 21 m/s (41 knots, a full gale) is definitely too much. 21 mph (18) knots is a bit strong for going to windward comfortably, though downwind it would be perfect. 21 km/h (11 knots) would be about perfect. And as one of my physics teachers would have pointed out, 21 elephants would be problematic.

That all sounds like it should be quite frustrating waiting here, but I’d say I’m a lot more at ease with it now than at the end of my time in Las Palmas. One fact is that I’m making sure I get out and do other things still, another is possibly that I haven’t been here nearly as long as there, but I think a big one is that I have now made one long trip.

In Las Palmas I’d say I was sailing single-handed, but then end up explaining that I’d really done very little of it (much less than one might expect meeting someone there!). Having come here it’s a different case.

The BIG decision

Posted in Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey) on November 29, 2010 by maidofmettle

We have welcomed Pete back after his trip to England.  Sounds like he was very busy but had a good time.

We have also been catching up with a few people on boats we have met along the way.  Axel who we met at the bottom of the canals and the Australians Gail and Steve who will soon be off across the Atlantic.

Over our time on this trip we have been working up to deciding where and what we were going to do, and for how long.  Really the biggest decision was whether or not to cross the Atlantic.

I think we have all been surprised by our experiences at sea and on land and our individual thoughts follow this as to why we have decided not to cross the Atlantic and why Chris and I are planning to fly back home from the Canaries.  Pete has decided he would like to sail back to the UK via the Azores.


“Given that I enjoy being in the outdoors and doing adventurous stuff, I think I really expected to be more OK at sea than I have turned out to be.  I knew I would worry beforehand and was sure to be seasick a bit, but then hoped that all my worries would turn out to be unfounded and that I wouldn’t be as bad as I thought.  In reality the things that I was most worried about haven’t been as scary or annoying as I thought they’d be and I have coped fairly well.  Once I’ve had the obligatory worry before we leave a place I’m fine and just get on with it, whatever the sea happens to throw at us.  However I underestimated how difficult it would be to get used to things like the boat’s motion, sea sickness and the feeling of not being free to do the things I’d like to whilst at sea.  Therefore I don’t think longterm life at sea or on a boat is for me.

Even though I would like to say that I’ve crossed the Atlantic I do not feel that the feeling of having done it would outweigh the difficulties during the voyage itself.   Yes, I’ve enjoyed some bits of the sailing when I’ve not been being ill, but for me the most enjoyable bits have been on land…”


“Looking back on our longest trip from Portugal to Porto Santo Madeira, it was a really good experience… but… I don’t think that I’d fancy the 30 days of sailing required to get across the Atlantic (and even longer on the way back). Seasickness has been quite hard as although Biodramina has helped and meant I haven’t actually been sick since we first started sailing, I still felt out of sorts for the first 3 days of the long trip and not normal.

The alternative option of sailing back to the UK via the Azores in the spring… I don’t really fancy spending another 4 months here in the Canaries waiting to go back to the UK, not that the Canaries aren’t lovely, but if we were going to spend another 8 months sailing before returning to the UK, it would need to include having the achievement of doing the Atlantic to make it feel worth while. So as it is, back to the UK for Christmas and house and job hunting fun start!”


“The long passage to Porto Santo from Portugal was magical after struggling through the first few days, and at the time I certainly wished it was a bit further to have more time sailing.

But despite that, I’ve found I definitely enjoy having time to explore a place just as much as the sailing there. Crossing the Atlantic is certainly tempting but having more time to spend exploring the less visited Canary Islands and the Azores seems the more exciting prospect to me, although the sailing itself may be trickier.

I enjoyed single-handed sailing in Portugal and hope I find I like it over longer distances as well. Fingers crossed, because I’m definitely looking forward to both continuing the voyage and sailing back to the UK.”

Boat time and decisions…

Posted in Fun, Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey) on March 25, 2010 by maidofmettle

Boats are interesting in a way.  Over the last few months we have been learning to experience what I have come to affectionately call “boat time”.  Boat time is a sort of unknown factor in trying to work out how long anything will take (for example, to make something/get something fixed/get something delivered etc), how long you might stay in a place or how long it might take to get somewhere when you leave a place.


Although publishing a plan seems unwise just yet we have been considering what to do next.

Looking at options for where to go next and how long to continue our trip for, we have been talking to people, reading books about possible places and thinking about how boat time will affect us.  We have it on good authority that Madeira is worth a visit and also the coast of Portugal so we are thinking we will try to go that way when the weather forecast looks hopeful for a long-ish trip.

The idea behind going to Madeira is that it will enable us to get a good experience of what the Atlantic will feel like and then when we get there we can decide whether to turn left (to the Canaries) or right towards the Azores and UK.  We haven’t had all that much experience of a long trip so before we can make any big decisions about extending the trip beyond this summer we need to get more miles at sea under our belts.  We all naively thought we’d be out of the Med and in South America by now….!!

I don’t think any of us feel certain about what we should do next especially when you think about all the people you miss and the things you might like to do back in England.  It’s impossible to make any decisions though when we haven’t been out of the Mediterranean yet.  The thought of that is daunting but seems less so when you think about it broken up into smaller pieces.

At the moment we are waiting for an Easterly wind to get out of the Straits of Gibraltar and then for this to continue for quite a few days to get us to Madeira or Portugal if we decide on there.  So now we need to avoid the nasty low pressure systems coming in…who knows how long that will take.  This is another example of boat time in action.  It seems most likely that we will do some smaller trips out of here before heading to Madeira given the unpredictable weather at the moment.

In the meantime we have continued to enjoy Gibraltar including the lower St Micheal’s caves tour.   The tour started via a secret door that had to be locked behind us.  It involved lots of climbing up slopes with ropes and trying to avoid clonking your head on low hanging bits.  We were glad of the helmets and of the lighting in there!  The sound some of the stallegtites made was amazing and it felt like we’d entered a different world.  The tour ended at a lake that was very like one from a Harry Potter film when our guide shone a torch over it.  I almost expected something to crawl out of it but apparently the caves have no life in them except for a bit of moss where the lights make it warmer.

Yes, we’re still here!

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey) on September 8, 2009 by maidofmettle

I have realised after a number of conversations with people that some of you are confused.  Just today I phoned my old work and was greeted with “Oh Hi, where are you calling from?!” to which I embarrassingly replied “Well, yes, I’m calling from home…we haven’t left yet”.  Shortly afterwards someone rang up and before taking a message the innevitable “Haven’t you left yet then?” soon followed.  Still, at least I haven’t been greeted with “So have you just popped back for a bit then…” that we thought might be a possibility before too long.

The mast went up a couple of weeks ago so now the boat looks like a boat at last.

It's a boat!

It's a boat!

Chris and Pete have been hard at work fitting bits and bobs e.g. the non-slip at the front deck and loading the hundreds of tins that Tesco kindly delivered.

fitting non-slip

fitting non-slip

I’ve spent lots of time on the internet over the last 3/4 weeks buying any last minute (!) things we might need.  The physical labour has been left to Chris and Pete mostly due to my being somewhat incapacitated and resembling a wonky little old lady who could barely bend in any direction, walk without the disconcerting feeling of bones crunching (Ouch!) or weald anything heavier than a kitchen knife.

Fortunately that little old lady is fading into the past and I am now well on the way to recovery.  Despite warnings of some pain for another month or so, now I have the go-ahead to go sailing without worrying about making things any worse 🙂

The other day I did my first bit of (light) sanding and painting in a month meaning that there is now some heat-proof board around the galley and it’s enthusiastic paraffin burner.

sanding again

sanding again

Chris made some mounts for the solar panels too whilst avoiding the 3 swans that seem to have taken to hissing at him whilst on the pontoon.

The "Black Swan"

The "Black Swan"

Solar power mounts

Solar power mounts

The long-awaited curtains are nearly all up too.  It’s really starting to look like a comfortable place to stay.



We just need to fit an outboard motor on and tidy up a bit before leaving!

Looks like we need a dyson

Looks like we need a dyson

We have had quite a few visitors in the last couple of weeks including Pete’s mum and uncle, Helena and Tim (with their dog May) and various members of the Hibbert family (Chris, Tina, Graham, Jack etc) so we have been lucky to have some nice walks and eat out a few times- thank you to everyone who has made it down.

Chichester Marina

Chichester Marina

Pub at Dell Quay

Pub at Dell Quay

Helena and Tim

Helena and Tim

As it is getting a bit late in the day for crossing Biscay and because the chances of a calm, pleasant (and importantly not rough) trip for 7 days may have significantly decreased by the time we hope to leave next week.

Sooo, what does that mean?

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t realise there were any other options.  Fortunately someone decided to build a network of canals that run through France into the Mediterranean Sea, and it looks almost certain that we will be chosing that route instead and then making our way out past Gibraltar where we can see the monkeys and the Rock.

P.S I have just added some more photos of East Head


Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey), Sailing on June 20, 2009 by maidofmettle

When I signed up for this trip I was promised a lovely holiday with sunny beaches, warm seas and lazy days under a parasol.  All this came true this week….

Well sort of…


An umberella was put up to keep the sun off whilst working and the warm seas were replaced by the ‘not quite warm’ sea at the end of the road.

There were more transformations this week.  This time the insides of the boat began to take shape thanks to lots more foam cutting

interior insulation foam

interior insulation foam


Bits of interior on various paint coats

Bits of interior on various paint coats

and varnishing of side panels so that things could be put back in place…hurrah!

Pete installing ceiling panels

Pete installing ceiling panels

varnished side panels in situ

varnished side panels and bookshelves in situ

Also the baulk-heads were glued back into position.

sealing baulk-heads

sealing baulk-heads

Things are really beginning to take shape again and it’s nice to have a glimpse of what the inside will look like once it’s finished.

I had a bit of a lesson in sailing last weekend so am one step closer to learning some important skills.  The boat stayed upright and we made it to a pub for a drink which was good.  I hope to be taking a sea survival course pretty soon.


As an aside, I am watching Bear Grylls on TV and have just seen that the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean has native Bird Eating Tarantulas!  They are huge and he is about to eat one for breakfast,  something I don’t plan to be doing myself if we end up there.  They also have poisonous snakes, scorpions and plants that give you blisters.  Maybe we ought to avoid the jungle!   On the other hand I have just found out that they do have watervines that are useful if you get stranded anywhere so it’s not all bad…

We have been looking into entertainment on-board.   Pete has been finding some board-games whilst the big “Bop-it extreme” game search continues.

Research is continuing into music on the boat and we have a mini guitar and box drum we made as a start so far.

The cajon box drum in progress

The cajon box drum in progress

The Cajon was made from scrap wood and a small snare drum wire.  We discovered out how to make it from someone else’s blog and found hot-melt glue to be very useful for fixing it together quickly.  After a coat of wood stain and some varnish it is pretty much there give or take a few extra bits of decoration yet to be decided.

cajon with wood-stain and varnish

cajon with wood-stain and varnish