15 January 2015

Atlantic Crossing Dec 2014 - 2015

Report from Cap'n Buck

..... So we are in Port Le Marin, Martinique, Caribbean - arrived Monday 12 Jan 0915H!    Great to be here, can hardly believe it after all our planning.  With one additional crew member to assist us, Amanda Wilson from New Zealand our fantastic helmswoman, we have had amazing sailing from Gibraltar to Rabat, Rabat to Madeira, Madeira to Lanzarote, Lanzarote - Tenerife, Tenerife to Las Palmas Gran Canaria, an unscheduled stopover in Cape Verde 6 days later.  We sailed 100 miles past there and had a hopeless forecast, so went back to Cape Verde for Christmas. Departed CV again 28 Dec and here we are.

The crossing was boisterous to say the least. Mostly winds of 25 - 35 knots with squalls to 40 plus on a regular basis. As the wind increased so did the sea state of course so at times we had 5 to 6 metre seas with a cross swell to add to it all, one from the NE and one from the E. When they joined up, which was very fequently, they caused a break that caught us occasionally stern-on and tried to tip us over. Like a mini broach I guess but Matelot always rcovered quickly so we were never in any real danger. Once when Amanda was on the helm and yours truly was asleep in the quarter berth (starboard aft cabin) we sort of fell off a wave and I was thrown across the berth and opened up a cut over my right eye which bled profusely but otherwise only left a bit of bruising. Otherwise we were injury free apart form the odd bruise suffered by everyone on board.

SY Matelot performed mgnificently throughout and the hydrovane was a marvel, only occasionally telling us that we were over canvassed, usually around the 35 knot region!  As we were already down to three reefs in the main and an almost completely rolled up genny winged out on the spinnaker boom, we didn't have much to take in!  At that stage we usually rolled up the genny completely and saw out the squall which was mostly fairly shortlived (30 miniutes or less).  All we were glad of was that we were going with it not against it. 

It was a memorable trip but we are happy to leave the Atlantic behind now and head for the Blue Pacific. We saw very little sun on the crossing so subsequently had to run the motor on numerous occasions to charge the batteries. No problem there as we carried extra 150 litres of fuel as well as the main tank which has the same again. We only used about half of the main tank in the end so had plenty in reserve if we had needed it.  We did have a twelve hour period where we motored through lack of wind. This in effect meant that we had less than 10 knots which is not enough to sail in with the huge seas which always take a long time to dissipate once the wind has dropped.
Dolphins all around us...

Our rig was the traditional main out one side, with double preventer, plus the genny poled out the opposite side. I had set up the spin. boom so that it was independently stayed, topping lift, aft brace and forward brace.  Then I fitted a snatch block inside the topping lift at the outer end of the boom through which the sheet for the genny was led from the clew through the block back to the winch aft.  That minimised chafe on the sheet and meant we could roll up the genny to any extent necessary while the boom stayed where it was. Worked a treat. We had set up the boat with prod and snuffer for the spinnaker but never had a chance to use it because of the wind strength. Pippy has a habit of saying no when it is blowing over 20 knots with gusts to 35, and I for one am very glad of that habit!

There were a number of mishaps en route by other boats who left about the same time who all said they had very rough crossing.  One single handed woman whom we had met on various occasions tragically lost her boat 150 miles SW of the Cape Verdes only a few days ago and has been picked up by a ship.   Problem with her rudder we understand but that is all we know.  Another 30 footer with an Irishman and his German wife also crossed at the same time as us and had all sorts of problems, especially with weed around their rudder. He had to get into the water twice to cut away the weed. Thank goodness we didn't have it as bad as that although we did have problems and had to use the boat hook to clear the hydrovane rudder of weed on many occasions. 

Had fun cooking this!
It also made fishing difficult although having said that, we did land two very good mahimahi, one about 20kg (84cm). We lived off them for days! The very first time I put out the line we lost the whole contraption, lock, stock and barrel. Some denizen of the deep snapped the 150 lb mono-filament line at the boat where it was attached, as if it was a bit of cotton.  Fortunately I had divided the line in two so we lived to fish another day. We also lost a swordfish which we got to the boat then it broke off, and what I think was a tuna but it broke off before we got it close.  Incidentally the mahimahi we did land had weed in its mouth and we suspect it took the lure with the weed on it!

Our passage time was around 20 days for the whole trip from Las Palmas, but of course in the end we decided to stop over in Cape Verdes en route and back-tracked a bit to do that, so don't have an accurate log of the direct mileage travelled. Around 2150 miles for the Cape Verde to Martinique plus another 800 miles approx to Cape Verde from Canaries. Total therefore 2950 miles plus our back-tracking to Cape Verde.

Right now we are looking at continuing on as far as Puerto Rico in the north, then across to the ABC islands off the Venezuala Coast before continuing on to Panama. It is a bit of a daunting though after such a boisterous passage so we will look at all options open to us over the next few days and weeks and go from there.

Pippy's Contribution

We left Las Palmas, Gran Canaria on 16 December with Richard, myself and Amanda Wilson on board and were immediately in good wind for a fast passage.  It was our plan to sail non-stop to the Caribbean, but 6 days later when we passed close to the Cape Verde Islands, we received a weather forecast which was not great for the next 3-5 days. We then decided to turn around and spend Christmas at Mindelo, Cape Verde and wait for better wind, so sailed 150 miles back to there.  We enjoyed Mindelo - very African and interesting for a short time - and nice to spend Christmas with friends on other boats, then departed there on 28 December for the remainder of our crossing.

It was a very challenging passage with big winds and seas, but was enormously satisfying experience for all three of us on board.  The ocean was powerful and beautiful and we were often visited by dolphins.  Friends just ahead of us on another yacht saw Minke whales close by too, but we did not.  We spent a good deal of the time fishing and were successful in landing two delicious Mahi Mahi which kept us fed for quite a few days and even provided the makings for a huge fish pie on arrival here to share with friends.  

We all got on very well on the crossing, mostly sleeping, eating and going on watch.  The time flew by. During the day 7am-7pm, Amanda and Richard did 4 hour watches.  Pippy took care of all the communications (via satphone), weather information, cooking food and keeping the galley running, and making water via the watermaker. (Mostly fresh drinking water as we were drinking a lot of fluids - no alchohol and did not miss it.).  At night this all changed and we shared 3 hour watches.  Most nights the moon on the water was breathtakingly beautiful - a blessing to have the moonlight and very good visibility. Because we had some high winds, we often had to hand steer through the squalls so sometimes it was pretty full on.  For three nights we changed to rolling two hour watches because the weather was so extreme it was too exhausting to be on watch for longer than two hours.  That was much harder, especially during the squalls of torrential rain which we were often doused with when visibility was very limited.  After a few days of that we were all pretty exhausted but fortunately the weather eased up on us a little and we were able to go back to 3 hours and more uninterrupted sleep.  
Quite an achievement getting these date and orange scones made....

What I really loved was the afternoon sleep I was able to have most days - crashed out for 1-2-3 hours doing catchup and waking up feeling so refreshed.  Both Amanda and I thought we would get a few projects done on passage, but it was mostly impossible although Amanda did get some knitting done showing great determination. Anything not tied down got thrown around the saloon.  Preparing food was a huge challenge and the clipped-on-to-the-stove pressure cooker came into its own, doing many of our meals. Once or twice I tried to use the oven but it was difficult to get hot things in and out with it rocking backwards and forwards on the gimble so violently. The date and orange scones came out okay despite the rocking!  
We did eat well though it was hard to get food from bowl to mouth without losing it!  Drinks were even harder - often travelling vertically out of the mug.  We mostly just drank water from our water bottles.

Now we are coming to terms with being in the Caribbean. The temperature is deliciously warm, and sunny, but we have already had quite a lot of rain which is such a luxury after years of sailing in the Med where it never rains and the boat got very dirty.  Now the boat has been washed down several times and so have we.

All is well with us.  The saloon smells of tropical fruit and fresh vanilla pods.  We are slowly getting over our tiredness and starting to move on again.

01 October 2014

SY Matelot in Morocco

Matelot in Bouregreg Marina
We awake to look around us at the ancient tower opposite Bouregreg Marina on the Rabat side of the river - placed strategically between the river front, the ancient Souk, and the modern tramway/people mover which is reminiscent of the efficiency of Istanbul. 

Walking in the Souk near the marina.
With no local currency we cannot do much so explore into the Souk to find a money machine, (70 MD = 7 Euro approx.) then ride up to Sale central to buy a local sim card and some WIFI from Maroc Telecom.

The graveyard overlooking Harbour entrance.
Not sure how we fit it in, but we get some shopping done at the Souk and have a good look around the Sale side.


By the next morning we have backpacks organised and are off the boat early for a train to Marrakech.  It is so easy to ride the tram to the central Gare du Rabat and hop on a fast train, in no time we are well on our way. 

About one hour out from Marrakech we are joined in our compartment by a very chatty man who joins in the interesting conversation we are having with a local young woman who is telling us what the top sites are in the Marrakech region.  

Having been warned about touts, Pippy’s antennae goes up when he asks if we have accommodation booked.  “Yes thank you” is the answer.  A while later he asks Richard the same question “No we don’t” is the answer this time as Pippy inwardly groans.  Before we know it we are stitched up with accommodation and tours.   However Hasan does make our arrival in Marrakech much easier as we are guided promptly into a taxi and taken to a very nice and inexpensive Riad (tucked away behind many right and left turns in a narrow alley, which turns out to be 400 MD per night per room including breakfast).  We talk about our travel plans and money... over mint tea.
Jemaa El Fna, the main square

We plan a day tour of Marrakech for the next morning and an exploration of the surrounding countryside, camel riding and sleeping in the desert, then on to Fez over the next few days. 

We have told our new ‘friend’ Abdul that we want to have the evening to ourselves to explore, so off we go, walking along the interesting dusty laneways of Marrakech in the failing light.   
This character is our waiter and has pulled us in off the street.
We have decided we are going to eat in the square on advice from that very nice young woman on the train, and head for the stall (Hassan Rguigu) she has recommended. 

There are many local people eating here and the only thing we don’t touch is the shared water cup, instead buying bottled water.  

The food is tasty, good value and good quality dished up with plenty of smoke from the open fire.

Of all the places we visit in Marrakech the next day, it is the Majorelle Gardens Yves St Laurent's Morocco home, which we love the most.  The sense of peace and harmony in these gardens makes us want to stay longer.  

Soon after lunch, we are joined by more sailing friends from Rabat (Time Bandit and Purrfect) and now have a group of 7 so the price for all of our planned travel comes down considerably.  

In a blur we take in the Saadian Tombs and Medersa Ben Youssef, reminiscent of the Alhambra in Grenada, purchase our Argan Oil and say a very firm ‘no’ to the carpet seller before again enjoying a meal this time in a restaurant overlooking the square. 

By now we are feeling much more comfortable with Abdul who has spent the day with us touring Marrakech and provided a good car and driver for the experience.  Our onward journey to Fez via the High Atlas Mountains, Dades Gorge then on to the desert begins tomorrow at 0800H.  Our faith is tested a little when our driver is late the next morning but then arrives and we are on our way in a slightly dodgy vehicle.  We discover we cannot open the back door from the inside and hope like mad that we don’t have to in an emergency.  

From now on we take thousands of photographs and cannot possibly share all that happens.  Pippy gets caught out taking a photo of a policeman at a road block and gets a little telling off.

The Unesco World Heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou is stunning.

Many goods are on offer but we don't have room on board which is perhaps a good thing!

A film set for a movie is being established at the top so we watch the construction for a while.  

Our guide assures us that the site will be returned to original immediately after the film is finished and nothing will be damaged.

This is the place where films have been made for many years, including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.

Many miles later, and well after darkness falls, we are delivered to our hotel in the Dades Gorge. The next morning we walk for more than an hour along the fertile riverside, where fruit and vegetables grow in abundace.  Frequent glimpses through the green bushes show local women doing their laundry on the riverside or washing carpets.  We soon realise it is not ok to take photographs without permission first.  We stop at the end for a visit to the showroom of the carpet makers – a co-operative of local women – and are shown some of the loveliest Berber carpets ever – very tempting but none of us is able to purchase for our small spaces on board yachts so we continue onwards.  Tonight we will be sleeping in the desert.

The highlight of this day is to be the gastro-nomic Moroccan Tagene meal we enjoy at the town of Tingdid in the unassuming looking Panorama Café, just before we get to the desert.  Wow what food – we devour it savouring the wonderful spices and fresh ingredients.  We have not had anything as good for a long time and certainly not since. Sorry it all vanished too quickly. Only the grapes made it to a photo shoot

Genuine Berber clothing....
 The highlight of the night is yet to come.

Now we are closing on the desert having been driven for hours, but first we must stop and buy some genuine Berber clothing for the participants of a Rally in our group.  They have a fancy dress party organised.

By the time we have swapped ourselves into 4 wheel drive vehicles, then met up with our camels, sunset is rapidly approaching.

Up we are heaved (via a jerk forwards as it raises its hind legs, almost sending us onto our face in the sand in front of the camel, then a larger jerk backwards as it gets up onto all four legs) onto our camels and are plodding along in a line into the sand dunes before we know it, riding for quite a while before stopping to watch the sun fade and the contours of the dunes turn into sharp contrasting angles before the darkness almost fills in. 

On we go to our campsite with the four leading camels slightly ahead, sometimes stumbling on the downhill inclines… tending to slip in the sand.  We cling on like limpits and lean right back.  Our three climb the crest of a hill where we see our tents spread out below us, but alarmingly one of our party lying in a crumpled heap on the ground and her husband leaping from his camel (it’s a long way to jump) and running towards her, with the camel driver also in attendance. 

The four camels, now free to do what they want, head for the desert at a trot with two more of our party still as passengers.  Chaos reigns and the injured woman, Anne is lying very still.  We have to be calm and allow ourselves to be led past the scene and disembarked from the camel backs close to the tents. 

It seems that one camel has bitten the one in front, then the one in front has jerked and stumbled, throwing Anne to the ground where she has landed on her back after getting caught up in the lead rope and flipped over backwards.  She is in a lot of pain and we are miles from help.  She is assisted to a mattress in the middle of the campsite.  It is now we find out the only first aid we have available is what we have in our own bags.  A few anti-inflammatories and our new crew member Amanda who has medical training in her job as a Sonographer.  Amanda does a great job supervising what assistance we can lend to make Anne as comfortable as possible, assuring her that nothing appears to be broken.  However the pain makes it impossible for her to move at all. There is minimal phone signal.  A message goes out for help but it will be morning before Anne can be taken out.   The camel drivers are very worried they are going to lose their jobs because of the accident, but it is not their fault. 

Soon one of them suggests he try some Berber medicine to relieve the pain.  This consists
of taking one of the glasses we have just been drinking mint tea from, lighting a piece of paper inside it and quickly turning it over and clamping it on to Anne’s back where it instantly stops burning and creates a suction effect as it cools. It does not appear to burn as it is applied. 

Carpets at Dades Gorge Womens' Co-op
Our tagine dinner is cooking in one of the tents and our mattresses await on the ground.  The night stretches ahead of us.  Some of the spicy oily surface from the tagine is turned into a massage after the Berber treatment has been applied for about an hour.  Amazingly and thankfully, Anne’s pain is relieved somewhat and the heat from the spices appears to have a very soothing effect.  We all relax a little and eat a late but welcome dinner in one of the tents.  She and her husband sleep outside under the stars as is too uncomfortable to be moved.  None of us sleep much this night interspersed by frequent visits into the desert for nature stops. The stars seem so close and the air is warm and windless. We are assured there are no creepy crawlies around. By morning Anne is feeling a bit better and is able to move so that the quad bike which arrives before sunrise is able to transport her back to the base hotel where she rests again, waiting for the rest of us to arrive on camel-back a couple of hours later. 

It is a very long and picturesque day today as we are driving all the way to Fez through the lower Atlas mountains stopping briefly at a pretty Alpen village where the King of Morocco has one of his homes. Amanda Richard and I stay overnight in Fez and take a whistle stop tour.  The others go onwards back to Rabat.  We don’t know how our driver does it, but he will drive back to Marrakech after dropping them off.  We are in the car and driving by around 1030H and arrive in Fez around 2100H.

22 September 2014

Passage to Rabat, Morocco

Depart Gibraltar 20 Sept for anchorage Algeciras close to Gibraltar
Depart Algeciras 21 Sept for Rabat
We now have our third crew member on board, Amanda Wilson from Hawkes Bay.  Amanda is an experienced sailor and skipper of her own 12m yacht and is sailing with us to get some off shore experience as it is something she has always wanted to do. We are thrilled to have Amanda on board and on our best behaviour - for a while anyway.

Soon after Amanda's arrival we move the boat over to La Linea Marina, now called Alcaidesa, and enjoy some music on board Hob Nob with Doug and Shanna.

We arrive in Rabat just after midday 22 Sept after an amazing overnight sail, but very intense at times.

After a forecast of no wind, we pick up an easterly wind at Tarifa at the western end of the Gib Straights just as daylight is filling in.  We slice across to the north western tip of Africa and past it to see the coastline stretching out to the south off to port.

Now for a while we have to motor - 3 hours in total - before a fresh south west fills in and pulls us on long tacks southwards. 

We organise ourselves into 3 hourly overnight watches, eat a dinner of roast chicken and vegetables then the night moves on.   We have to tack more frequently to keep the sails filled in the light south westerly, sometimes slipping along nicely sometimes struggling and engine assisted.   At some stage we sight a large purple weather cell behind us on the radar and think we might be getting a wind change.  Sure enough within half an hour wind fills in from the north-west and we are able to ease the sails, step up the speed and touch more than 7 knots at times.
It is a very dark night and we are two on deck at all times, revolving according to our watch pattern.  Fishing nets and other navigational hazards make for an intense concentrated time regardless of how close or far we are from the shore, sometimes 6 NM, sometimes 20.  Lights – tiny blinking ones in lines (they are fishing nets on the surface) and larger ones, sometimes stationary and sometimes moving, keep us fully occupied. The massive and ugly shrimp boat which tries to run us down is the worst.  Around 0415H Amanda and Pippy spot it from 12 miles away on our bow and track it on radar coming towards us.  Several times we change course to port to avoid it, and several times it changes course too to that it is always there, right in our path.  Cap’n Buck is dragged out of bed, having only just gone off watch at 0400H.  The shrimper is approx a mile away and has now been on our starboard side for a little time, when we spot a port light and realise it has this time changed to a cross-bows course towards us.  We know it is probably dragging nets – or something – so we must pass it's bow.  Soon it is half a mile away – our engine is on and we are accelerating at high revs.  All our deck lights are on too so that we are lit up like a Christmas tree.  Pippy is calling on the VHF repeatedly for them to advise their intentions.  No reply.  No AIS signal either.  By the time we pass under their bows they are a quarter of a mile away and coming fast.  We see the whole structure bearing down on our starboard side – massive steel gantries out each side which look like a Meccano construction, the bow crouching over the water like a giant mantis from a sci-fi movie, quite scary as we don’t actually know what it's purpose is and have never seen anything like it before.  Once we are past and away the shrimper changes course again away from us and continues on its way.

Moroccan Flag goes up on arrival.
We cannot believe that the manoeuvres this boat has made is to protect nets since it has literally hunted us down.  Two more sailing boats report similar incidents in this region over the next few days.  It is not until we see these reports that we realise what the offending boat was.

This wind carries us until around 0700H when the engine has to go on.  It has been an exhilarating and at times scary passage. 

We are a ragged little bunch on arrival into Rabat, having had very little sleep overnight. 

The Port Pilot meets us promptly despite us not being able to make out their transmission on VHF.  We follow the pilot on a very picturesque journey upstream to the marina on the Sale side.  

Once over the bar and past the rocky headland, we see massive ancient Kasbah walls on each side of the river towering over the foreground of a lovely sandy beach and many brightly painted small wooden fishing boats and their dark skinned inhabitants, which might have come from a Biblical scene. 

Customs give us a good look over on arrival and we are soon in our berth, where rather than dashing out and exploring, we fade quickly into blissful dreamless sleeps, fully clothed and asleep wherever it finds us, spread-eagled and relaxed.

07 September 2014

Where did August go?

Last minute happy times are enjoyed in Culatra with friends Clare and Tony and John and Janine.  We have had many happy evenings on board Orca Joss (NZ) and Hai Mei Gui, playing guitars and singing along...sort of!

We all take a fast water taxi one evening ...to Faro.

Its a real thrill speeding across the flat waters of Culatra, hitting a sand bank on the way .... not planned - but after coming to a sudden stop we are soon on our way again.

Its the Faro Food and Music Festival is on and we are having a night out... yeah!

After one lovely last evening on board Matelot we check the weather forecast and decide we are departing in the morning for Gibraltar.

Tuesday 12 August

Culatra to Cadiz
82.6 NM

Late out of bed … again!  Our 6am departure from Culatra turns into 0700H as we hurtle out through the heads with the outgoing spring tide, bumping our way over the whirlpools and random waves thrown up by the current.  No wind at all, despite having lain awake most of the night listening to the whine of the wind coming from the north and assuming it would still be there in the morning.

We are sad to leave but not too badly so, as the smell of the bare mudflats or whatever it is on the outgoing tide is nothing to be happy about and has wafted into our for’ard berth for some time through the partially open hatch, particularly smelly.  This place is a place of teaming life – fish, shellfish, birds everywhere (plenty of food for them), some of them quite rare.  I guess the smell is the price you pay for ‘life’ or is it what comes out of the pipe by the ferry wharf at Olhao?  We will never know and it will not worry us either. 

Never mind, the current seems to help us along rather well and so does the engine, until with 30 miles still to go the wind comes in and the sailing is just lovely – on the beam around 12-15 knots all afternoon until our arrival Cadiz 1900H, dropping anchor at 1945H.

There is nothing quite like coming back into a familiar anchorage of a town you have loved, in gorgeous weather, the noise of the wind, then the engine and then …. silence… just the lapping of the water against the hull, a cold beer and the distant sounds of the bridge construction which has made considerable progress since we were last here – ages ago…no wait – two months ago.

Our watches are put forward one hour and oh no – it is already 2130H and we have not had dinner.  Back to the galley Pippy.

Wed 13 August
Cadiz to Gibraltar
82 NM

We depart our peaceful anchorage under the bridge construction at 0700H on a strong ebb tide.  Not far around the corner we find ourselves in a 20 knot NW breeze and strong short swell as the wind pushes against the outgoing tide.  Conditions are challenging for the first hour as we clear the harbour under engine and reefed genoa.  Pippy is busy on the helm slightly anxious that we got going so quickly she did not check the hatches properly….just a niggling worry but Richard has a quick glance down below and sees no problem there.  Matelot buries her nose a few times and we have waves over the bow – a nice clean-up for the muddy anchor and chain.

Unfortunately some time later we discover that our for’ard hatch is closed, but on the first setting – slightly cracked open.  Our bedding - including mattresses - is saturated in salt water.  We get the watermaker going and do the washing on the way, mattress covers as well and its soon all dry and clean in the sunshine.  We also have a nice shower ourselves in the cockpit after clearing Trafalgar Reef.

The sea state from now on is confused to say the least by the pressure of massive current from the Straights.  To use Cap’n Buck’s words from the log:  There are some pretty fearsome stand-ups near the Trafalgar and Tarifa shoals and at times we are doing over 8 knots over the ground feeling like we are sailing down rapids.

Our intended destination today is Barbate, but we are going so well we forge on into the Straights of Gibraltar around 1830H, carried onwards by a strong current under us and light breezes until we round the corner into Gib Harbour and suddenly we are sailing in 40 Knots under reefed genoa making 10 knots easily towards Ocean Village and our berth in Marina Bay.  Unlike last November when we visited here, the Cruise ship hotel is well in place now and the marina area is very interesting as we berth right beside it, a day ahead of schedule.

Soon we are in full work mode as the parcelled up Hydrovane arrives and so doesTed to install it, - now christened HydroKeith by Greg Cook.  The boat is a hive of activity - and mess for the next few days.

Then after a bit of a struggle getting it off Spanish Customs, our new dinghy (Matelittle) arrives from the UK and Richard writes up his list of about 30 jobs to be done (by him) before we depart here. Matelot gets a new galley tap, the lights up the mast are rewired with the help of our lovely neighbours on both sides, Arthur and Jackie and Jo and Stefan – assisted of course by Bowline the Dog.  
 What a cute boy he is – Bowline that is!  

The new arrival is pumped up and tried out - bewdy - and the old Lodestar goes off to the trash, not without a thank you from us both as she has done us great service, apart from nearly tipping Emily and Faye into the sea.

Pippy volunteers to make dinghy chaps to keep our new ‘motor transport’ in good nick while we cross the Atlantic and Pacific in the year or so ahead.  She wishes she hadn’t, but is deeply into it now with the sewing machine smokin’ in the cockpit.

The template is made - 2 days work, the cutting out is done - another 2 days and now the sewing has begun.

Gibraltar is in full party mode and we are treated to the sounds of the Gibraltar Music Festival http://gibraltarmusicfestival.eu/ with an unbelievable lineup of artists, playing right beside the marina last night 6 Sept.

Pippy is working on Matelittle and hears a ‘big voice’ coming from the ship hotel, glances up and sees the whole lineup of ‘Script’ on the balcony mucking around exercising their vocal chords and laughing. 

That is a bit of a thrill - not to mention the atmosphere here last night.  Pretty special with an almost full moon appearing over the Rock.

Now we are expecting Amanda Wilson, our additional crew member to arrive on board on Wednesday and sail on down to Rabat with us.  That will be fun – and we hope for a weather window soon!  Not looking great for a few days yet.

Okay family and friends. That’s all from Matelot for now.  Sending you all hugs and kisses.

xxxCap’n Buck and Pippy 

04 August 2014

Homeward Bound...

Decision Made – We are on our way home

It is decision time on board SY Matelot.  Well placed for our planned Atlantic Crossing this year, we have been having many conflicting thoughts about leaving European waters - areas that feel safe and familiar.  We are encouraged by these wise and encouraging words from a sailing friend who has almost completed a circumnavigation from Australia.  We hope to see them in New Zealand in 2015.  

“I remember reading an article about sailing and the fear that grips a competent sailor before they raise the anchor. The gist was that only an incompetent sailor would be nonchalant about heading off given the things that can go wrong, even on a short trip. On top of all the usual stuff like worrying about engine failure and the sails blowing out, you will also have the 'will I be well enough' worry given the challenges Cap’n Buck has faced in the last year.

I found leaving Australia and then Asia hard. It felt like there was no chance of turning back. I remember wanting to hang onto the Canaries and my dongle with internet connection, talking to my parents on skype until we sailed out of range.  It is tough knowing that you are moving away from the known. When we got through the Panama Canal I expected to feel relief that we'd come through unscathed. But that night I realised that the reason I couldn't hear the fat lady singing was that 'it wasn't over yet' and I might not feel like it was over till we reached New Zealand. ….”

These comments really sum up our thoughts right now as we make our final decisions committing to the passage back to New Zealand, ie, purchasing medical insurance for another year, ordering the Hydrovane to pick up in Gibraltar…  paying for one year of Satellite phone service…and the feeling that there is no turning back is definitely alive and well on SY Matelot.  It is very comforting to know that we are normal to be giving this major decision huge consideration.

Then there are those sailors and others, who delight in riveting us hopeful passagers with stories of yachting disasters, lists of every possible thing that can go wrong and their own horror stories no doubt amplified.  Great – but we soon develop a philosophical attitude to these helpful folk.  Ok they need to vent, as it is their own fears they are dealing with….

We know that for every disaster there are thousands of successful passages made and people completing one of their own life’s challenges, able to live out their lives enriched by their experience and the wonderful friends they have made along the way.  Their voyage changes them and changes their horizons forever.  We are very conscious that with good health and good luck we have an opportunity to do this.  It is all food for thought, - we never forget that saying:  “We only ever regret the things we have not done in our lives.”

For Pippy, thoughts are with her 93 year old mother in Australia, (full of encouragement, having been a great traveller herself) both of them living in the constant hope and prayer that a reunion will still be possible in 2015, but very aware this is pushing the boundaries.  

For both of us, it is time to be home again close to family and grandchildren.  Pippy finds some sage we have dried on board in the galley supplies and burns it, walking through the boat in a ceremony to bless our boat and all who sail in her, to keep us safe and healthy until our return to New Zealand.  Cap’n Buck raises his eyebrows!

Finances are stretched to the maximum now with the addition of a Hydrovane self steering unit and the necessity to purchase a new dinghy, one which will in effect be our vehicle to get to and from the shore in some fairly challenging conditions and places.  We have had a tough year with our property in NZ and ‘sick’ is the only word we can use to describe our financial accounts.  However our time in the EU expires on 20 August and we must move on, so cannot get bogged down by any of this right now.

We plan to leave Portugese waters around 12 August for our return to Gibraltar and final fit out.

Faro Culatra and Olhao, Water Taxis and Ferries

Faro, Olhao and Culatra Water Taxis

We need the services of a water taxi urgently but cannot find any information on line despite googling every combination we know of.  So here is all the information we have found which we have put in here to help out anyone else who has the same problem.

Water taxi services around these waterways are well established, the drivers very capable and have been able to get us on to our yacht in fairly rough weather conditions.  

Prices we have been charged in July 2014 are Euro 25 from Olhao to Culatra anchorage and Euro 10 from Culatra Jetty to our Yacht in the anchorage nearby.  Following are some phone numbers:

Olhau Water Taxis +351 962156922
Taxi Mar +351 964350877
Aqua Taxi:  +351 926377 or +351 918707405
David Taxi:  +351 935060532

Olhau Marina

Buying fresh almonds at Olhao Saturday market...
We have technical problems aboard SY Matelot and need a berth, so investigate this marina by going ashore on the ferry and walking the town.  At the marina the security guard directs us to the port building up the Fishing Harbour end.  It is the third building along facing the fishing harbour and has a large wooden dinghy on display in the foyer downstairs.  We go upstairs and speak to the very unhelpful man at the desk there who just says “No” “Full”.  We know the marina is not full as have seen clearly there is plenty of space.  We ask the Port Police if there is an emergency berth anywhere in the harbour.  They direct us back to the same place called IPTH.  They suggest we speak to Jose Gloria.  We go back again and are told this gentleman is “away until Monday”.  At this stage we give up.

Water Barge, Culatra Anchorage

Fishing Boat racing with ferry ....
While waiting for a water taxi one day, we see the water barge come in.  For boats needing water, phone Jorge Lopes +351 912621263.  Price Euro 5 / 100 Litres.


There are regular ferries from Culatra to Olhao and Faro.  The ferries themselves are lovely, well maintained old girls which appear to have the occasional race with a fishing boat, adding to the on board entertainment.  Residents from the island load up the ferries with supplies on market day which is Saturday in Olhao.