My recent post reflecting on my North Atlantic circuit made mention of the many crew who came aboard and made it all possible. This post recalls each leg and its crew, reflecting on the highlights for me. It is written by way of grateful thanks for those who made the effort to come aboard and share the adventure.
Gosport to Madeira (Tom and Tiger). I knew from the outset that getting out of the Western Approaches could be one of the trickiest legs of all, and strong south westerlies could well have delayed us. In the event we were blessed with light westerlies against which we could motor sail, and once past Ouessant we had light reaching winds, with much progress made with the Parasailor and furling gennaker. Highlights were flying the drone while under gennaker; bathing in a calm Biscay in deep, cerulean blue water; learning modern vernacular (I now know what a ‘buff ting’ and a ‘peng sort’ are); listening to ‘banging’ tunes (and too much of a genre called London Grime), and riding scooters around Porto Santo. It was great to get Spellbinder’s first ocean leg behind us, and prove her systems. Thank you Tom and Tiger for making the first leg so memorable – you were a joy to sail with!
Madeira (Sue, Tom and Jonty). We had a lovely time exploring Madeira, and walking many miles along the Levadas. The Ilhas Desertas were lovely. We celebrated Sue’s birthday in a lovely castle restaurant in Funchal. We had some of the strongest winds of the whole year (the only time the wind got over 30 knots on passage) coming into Quinta do Lorde, where we left Spellbinder for a couple of months. Great family time, and a memorable holiday.
Madeira to The Canaries (Paul and Neil). A very hasty departure as an unseasonable storm with hurricane force winds (Leslie) was threatening Madeira. It was an easy passage, during which we caught our first dorado, the first fish ever caught by Paul. Thank you Paul for showing us a bit of Tenerife, which you know well. We enjoyed visiting La Gomera too.
Canaries (Neil, Claire, Molly and Harvey.) Some great sailing around the western Canaries. Close ups with pilot whales, wonderful food, snorkeling, swimming under cliffs and stern-to berthing. A pleasure to have the whole Wilson family on board!
Canaries (Sue and Jonty). We really enjoyed some walking amongst the volcanic landscapes of Tenerife, and touring the island, including visiting the highest point El Teide and the less developed north side.
Canaries (Anthony). Great to have my best man on board, although sorry you got a bit sick on a breezy crossing to Gran Canaria! Great discussions (Brexit included), and lots of good food and drink consumed.
Canaries to Cape Verde (Crispin, Charles and Simon). A memorable trade wind trip, having picked up Simon from Gran Canaria. Highlights for me were Charles diving overboard to clear a rope caught between the rudder and skeg, and helping me sew up a rip in the Parasailor; catching a dorado; seeing the first blow hole from a whale; frying flying fish, and arriving in some very African islands. What a great passage – thank you all.
Cape Verde (Simon). The Cape Verde islands were the ones I wished I had allowed more time for. They are still relatively wild and unexplored, particularly by British yachtsmen. Simon and I enjoyed some fine sailing and walking, and caught two very large dorado. We hired a guide to go around Sao Nicolau, and had a memorable day. Probably my favourite archipelago. Thank you Simon for teaching me lots about my own yacht and how to sail her better!
Atlantic Crossing: Mindelo, Cape Verde to Martinique (Alan and Neil). The longest of all the passages, and a wonderful fast downwind trip in good trade winds. We broke a couple of things (down to my own ineptitude) but nothing too important. We had some great baking, and a typical heads repair episode (thanks Alan!) as a result of a curtain rail holder which found its way down the pan. It was a wonderful, very satisfying crossing – thank you to both crew who were my ideal companions. After recovering, we had a lovely few days relaxing on the west coat of Martinique.
The Windwards (Peter and Janet). After a very pleasant few days exploring Martinique we crossed to St Lucia and enjoyed the RYS cruise down to Grenada. What a great time we had: highlights for me were the many BBQs and early morning swims among turtles; an amazing couple of days on Mustique; cricket in Bequia and drinks high up on the island; Tobago Cays and rafting up in Chatham Bay. It was a very special leg – thank you both so much.
The Windwards (Sue and Jonty). What a way to spend February half term. Spellbinder retraced her steps, and enjoyed fine tropical sailing, swimming and snorkeling. Highlights were walks above Chatham and Marigot Bays, lobsters in Tobago Cays, Wallilabou life and one of my favourite anchorages, Saltwhistle Bay.
The Leewards (Johnny, Lucy and David). Arriving in the rain at carnival time in Martinique, we squashed into the dinghy and then set off for some memorable explorations of Dominica, Guadeloupe and Antigua and Barbuda. I have some fine memories of partying in Portsmouth Dominica, riding electric bikes around Les Saintes in Guadeloupe, Lucy singing at the shrouds, and our visit to the amazing Barbuda. It was all great fun – thank you for your fine company!
Nevis, Saint Kitts, Saint Barts, and Anguilla (Patrick). We had a really enjoyable time sailing out from Antigua and exploring these mellow islands. Fine Russian-inspired coffee in St Kitts, and old plantations which are now boutique hotels; old forts; amazing yachts in Saint Barts; a still destroyed Saint Martin, and the wonderful Anguilla, with its lovely people and laid-back life. Great to spend time with you my old friend.
BVIs (Crispin, Ann, Lottie and Tom). We had a fine time sailing around these easy islands, enjoying many a cocktail and meeting a couple of knights of the realm en route. Some fine running from Crispin and Tom, great snorkeling, drone flying and a full moon party at the end of a runway!
Anegada, BVIs (Tom). My favourite island of the BVIs. Lobster galore, diving down to pile rocks on the anchor, being driven by Tom for the first time, and the most azure of all azure waters.
BVIs to Bermuda (Neil and François). A touch of seasickness from the crew, who recovered and enjoyed a fine broad reach virtually all the way. On arrival, horrendous shop prices, great scooter rides, the lovely Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and interesting history and museums. Thank you both very much – I hope you remember the good bits best!
Bermuda to the Azores (Alan and Julian). OCC parties, bus tours and an opportunity for you to see some of the island before we headed off. A wonderful passage full of long Parasailor runs, a broken autopilot, dolphins galore, fine dining and a great landfall in Flores. Terceira was an adventure too. Thank you both for making this long passage so enjoyable.
Azores to UK (Crispin and Tom). Both of you count as my most loyal crew – back for the third time! We had a great dinner in the Azores before a long passage, which dealt some weather-related challenges. Fuel consumption and routeing dilemmas, the most wonderful dolphin and whale displays, a fine landfall flying the drone over Bishop’s Rock, a re-fuel and anchorage in Scilly and a great Parasailor run up Channel. Lunch at the RYS was a fine way to finish!
Thank you all. I final word of thanks to my friend Julian H – while I missed you on board, your emails and advice on weather and routeing were invaluable and greatly appreciated. Thank you my friend!