7 February, 2015 13:41

We have arrived in Mindelo, Sao Vincente-Cape Verdes Islands. We were 8.5 days and 8 nights at sea having left Fuerteventura on Thursday 29th January around 9.30am. Since then we’ve put behind us 979 sea miles, our longest passage to date. Alfi turned one yesterday to boot! We are elated, exhausted, exhilarated and looking forward to a good rest. The passage was intense-the details to follow. We are safe and well and send you all salty love.

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28 January

Goodbye Fuerteventura.  Goodbye Canary Islands.  We have spent much longer here than anticipated but have not been disappointed.  Alfi started crawling the day we arrived here.  Her first teeth sprouted here.  Olive finally grew another whilst becoming a fully fledged tantrum wielding toddler.  We can only remember it well.  Here are some (long awaited) pics of our time here…

Anchorage, Arrecife, Lanzarote – December 2014

Olive in our friend’s dinghy, nose to nose with our French friend, Antoinne…

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Again Olive playing lady muck being ferried around by the skipper of Island Swift (below boat), in their little dinghy called ‘Swiftlet’ (cute)….Island Swift is an English boat – her crew are a family of four, two adults, parents to two teenage boys.  Like us, sailing to the Caribbean to adventure together.  Currently they are on route to Capes Verdes…our last text from them was that they were travelling south ‘like the clappers’ in good winds…we will be right behind them.

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Arrecife, Lanzarote – late December 2014

For all you sailing geeks out there, check this beauty out – this is SY Altair – a classic.  We saw her (and many others) as we were heading into the marina whilst they were all leaving heading for the Caribbean.  They were all participants in the Panerai Classic rally.  To participate in this rally you have to be a classic sailing yacht.  Google it and you will see all the boats we saw that day.  This one (and the rest) all cut a stunning silhouette as they sliced through the water heading south.  Truly beautiful not least, very exciting to watch.  I understand that some made the 2800 mile crossing in 12 days (fast!)…incredible.

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Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife, Lanzarote – end December 2014

One morning we awoke (in the marina) to see the most enormous motor yacht that at least, I had ever seen.  It was like a floating hotel.  This is Olive a bit awestruck…

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 Gran Tarajal – Fuerteventura – a few days ago

We arrived here in Gran Tarajal, Fuerteventura, around 15th January.  It is lovely here.  Family oriented.  Friendly people.  This is Alfi cruising around the deck in the evening sun…

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This is Yves, Patti and Lulu the dog (french folk).  They are wonderful young at heart full of energy people.  We met them first on La Graciosa.  Then again, quite to our surprise, here in Gran Tarajal.  They last made the journey from France to Senegal 30 years ago, in a 30 foot boat.  When they left France, Patti was 3 month pregnant.  When they arrived in Dakar, Senegal she was full term and promptly had a healthy baby boy in Dakar! What a woman!  All I can say to these lovely people is, mon chapeau…

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 Somewhere in Northern Fuerteventura, 25 January 2015

One day at the playpark, I got talking (as you do) with another parent.  He was a South African chap.  I told him we lived on a boat etc.  He mentioned friends of his (also living on the island) from Dartmouth, Devon who had also arrived here on a boat having sailed the world with their kids.  Soon after this an English chap arrived on the pontoon and introduced himself.  He was the said friend.  His name was Ian.  Within minutes he had invited us all to a BBQ that weekend.  ‘No’ he said, it was no bother to collect us all, and drive us all with his wife, and kids to the BBQ.  Obviously we didn’t hesitate to accept the kind invitation (which would get us beyond walking distance, beyond the playpark and supermarket to actually see some of this amazing island).  True to his word, he, his wife Mary and their kids arrived and scooped us up (car seats and all) and off we went.  We had a great day. Thank you Ian and Mary for being so generous and friendly!! Ian and Mary are amazing as they crossed the Atlantic (east – west and back) in their boat with their kids.  Their boat is totally unique.  It is a racing boat.  One of only eight made.  Carbon fibre…(i think that is right).  Whatever, it is super light and super fast and big.  Their cruising speed is 12-13 knots (ours is 5!).  Their fast speed is 20 knots (we feel like the speed of light when we make 7 knots!).  They can travel 200 miles a day! We do 120.  They literally surf…and we thought we were bonkers.

As for the other family, the Scot in blue in the white cap and the lady in the pink cap were so kind and hospitable to us, relative strangers.  Thank you Murdo, Ana, Alba and Andrew for the lovely dinner, the toys your kids gave ours and the warmness in which you embraced us.  We shall not forget it and hope we see them again.   (Just a shame this is such a ridiculous picture of me…there are hardly any ever…I wonder why??)

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Boatyard – Gran Tarajal, Fuerteventura – mid January 2015

We have got loads done here.  We hauled out, fixed leaks, cleaned Dhanu’s bottom (which was covered in barnacles), antifouled and made a new thingymewhatsit for the wind vane self steering…it meant 4 days living on the hard and climbing up and down a few metre high ladder but it was great to achieve so much.  Olive whizzed up and down the ladder like it was normal behaviour for a two year old. The yard was full of toothless local fishermen with wizened weather beaten faces staring curiously at us whilst tending to their own beautiful working boats.  Here we are under Dhanu’s hull her having been hauled out moments before…nerve racking I can tell you to see our boathome gingerly swaying in the air!

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Olive – counting barnacles…she ran out of numbers…(and fingers…)

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Something was hilarious…I am not sure what…

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So that brings you all up to date, visually speaking.  The photos are precious I know.  Who wants words when you can have pictures…if only pictures were as quick and easy to upload as text! So for now we say ‘see you soon’ on this auspicious eve.  The moment we untie our lines tomorrow morning we are firmly committed to the Atlantic crossing.  We will be leaving ‘Europe’.  Think of us.  It is as bizarre a thought as remote as it may feel to you guys tucked up in doors warm and cosy.  In a few days time, we will finally be hot.  Or at least warmer…here we go.  Deep breath.

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27 January

Finally.  We have a forecast.  A good one.  Good enough. We would be mad not to leave now we feel. So we leave Thursday 29th.  Excited to be heading South, back to sea.  For all the reasons previously stated.  Nervous too, yes. So Capes Verdes Islands here we come…watch this space…will try and get some photos up before we go if WIFI will allow.

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11 jan

Location – Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. No longer at anchor – boohoo. But alas being at anchor in a Force 5-6 whilst very doable, does make getting ashore a wet bouncy slightly nervey pain. If we don’t get the kids ashore we all go a bit coo coo. So, to the soulless convenience of the marina where our kids can run around and be scrubbed clean with ease.

Weather – windy. Unsettled. Frequent Force 5-6 and white caps just beyond the breakwater. Not typical for this time of year. Apparently, the Canaries is massive for surfing and wind surfing. Loads of surfdudes come here specifically for the Atlantic rollers. However the industry stops in January as there is usually just not enough wind then. Well this January defies all that. There is wind aplenty and too much of it. There has also been a lot of rain. The lava cliffs are starting to sprout! It is all very unusual. Many boats are stuck waiting for the trades to set in. To settle down. What we are seeing is a freak summer/winter of weather. So when it will all stop….? Who knows…wisdom says ‘soon’.

Status – waiting. Still. It is all becoming a bit repetitive. When oh when will the wind settle down? When will it be balmy? When will be on our way once more? I’m afraid through no fault of our own, this voyage has lost momentum. Stalled. We left 6 months ago and yet the last 3 have been spent in port. Upside; we are still our own bosses. Get up when we want, there is nowhere we have to be (except maybe the supermarket or the chandlery or the play park), we suit ourselves (our kids). But oh how I can’t wait to do all that in warmer climes. I want swimming, freckly noses, sticky sweet tropical fruit and lots of fresh fish. Please. Oh yes I know, there will be mozzies and heat and probably cranky children bladebla – it still looks good from here.

Destination – Grenada, Caribbean via the Capes Verdes. The desire to be in the Caribbean, is strong. I just want to get there. It is what we set out to do all those moons ago and I want to do it. We have to get there.

Plan of Action – remain calm and get south asap!! We leave for Fuerteventura in a few days time. There we will haul out to do some hull jobs and then wait for the weather window to open and stay open. We are provisioned at least. We are stuffed to the gunwhales with stocks. Hoorah! I can’t tell you anything interesting or cultural about our quarter in the Canaries unless it relates to supermarkets, marinas, anchoring, cheap wine, dinghy tie up points, play parks, wifi connections (not great), the weather and/or the incessant red dust that blows in from Morocco in an Easterly wind into your drying laundry – ideal. (All we have had are north easterlies. Dusty indeed).

So here we sit and wait. With a boat full of supplies waiting to pounce. Glued to the weather. Doing chores. Cleaning things. We even made chutney yesterday! I am sewing patches on jeans and repairing ripped pillow cases (again I blame the wind for battering the hell out of them whilst they dry on the line. Threadbare!). As are many of the knees on Olive’s ‘warm clothes’. All her trousers have holey knees through much climbing and falling and some tough laundry conditions. Alfi is growing out all of her winter wear whilst neither of their summer frocks are so much as stained. Oh how this voyage has unfolded. We need to get south or to mothercare. It is honest to also admit that there has been some disquiet aboard. Ben is frequently quoting me Nelson; ‘men and boats rot in port’. How right you are my lord. On a hairier note, I am starting to like Ben’s beard. Ever since he chopped off the silly hams and ceased twirling his facial locks like a nervey insecure weirdo. All that gone. Thank goodness.

Upside – precious time watching my sweet benign little flowers grow. Olive yesterday shoved a 6.5 litre bottle of water (with some intent) down the companionway where it landed a few centimetres from Alfi’s head. It landed with an actual thud. I swear I saw the letters splurt forth from the moment of impact. All Alfi and I could do was stop and stare in disbelief at the huge plastic missile before looking upwards to Olive’s mischievous face marked with an expression that said ‘I know I shouldn’t have done that…but I’m glad that I did!’ There are many attempted acts of sisterly love by Olive toward Alfi. No longer do we need to tell her to say sorry and kiss Alfi. No. Now she delivers the act and then immediately offers Alfi a kiss whilst saying sorry Alfi and then ‘thank you Alfi’ in a slightly menacing, toothless and thisping mutter. Watching Olive interact with Alfi is to see a demonstration of the most very basic of animal antics. ‘I am big. You are small. I can stand. You cannot. I like the sound of your head banging against the wood. It’s funneeeee’. Laughing we are not (well sometimes we do). We are at least grateful Dhanu is not made of steel. Watching the girls makes me ponder that surely all children everywhere with siblings, have endured this abuse and come out OK? I mean I am one of four and look how balanced I turned out…

The View From the Hatch – in my experience, the view when in marinas like this is always the same. Concrete. Promenade. Shops and restaurants. Lots of lights. Lots of noise. Palm trees, (those short stumpy ones which Olive refers to as pineapple tress – how totally logical. Makes me wonder why there are not pineapples hanging from them?) From inside the cabin, we can hear Burger King operatives calling customers names out over a PA system. Oh yeah baby, we are living the dream. At first I thought it was Canarian bingo. But now I have worked it out, I’m glad we aren’t missing any fun. However I must not complain as the upside to being moored next to Burger King is that they have a set of play tunnels for kids which Olive loves (as do we as it exhausts her). It is free and on the doorstep…she has mastered the three tiered swirl of primal coloured plastic which she descends in a giddy heap taking out which ever Canarian child was in the way. Thank you Burger King.

On being port bound – it is frustrating. The trick is to try and enjoy it even though you are preparing to leave. Difficult. The real ball ache is that I have almost forgotten what it is to be at sea. I know it will take at least a few days to find the rhythm and that until we do sailing will be a shock to the system. I was reminded of all this when looking around the boat today. It is a different place when in port, when inert. I looked at all the piles and collections of things that had fallen into synch with one another over the last few months and realised they would not stand a chance at sea. They would all have to be swooped away and re-housed. Where would they go? Life inside the cabin would have to be once more, secured, cushions stuffed here and there and surfaces cleared and missiles lashed down. I can almost hear the clinking of jars and bottles, the tinkling of aluminium items in the pan locker, persistently clanging away. But then in imagining that it will also follow that if I stick my head out of the hatch, we will be moving forward. The sea will be alive. The wind will hug my ears. The stars will be out with any luck. The girls will be sleeping. And Ben and I will be feeling positive and focused and expectant and free. Oh yes please.

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Christmas Day 2014

It is 2018 aboard Dhanu. There are shreds of tinsel stuff on the floor. Alfi is crawling around with a maraca that looks like a frog hanging out of her mouth (thanks Aunty Harry). She reminds me of a beautiful little grenade with a tempting colourful pin dangling out of her pursed little determined lips. It is very amusing. Olive is standing semi naked watching octonauts. I am writing this. Ben is checking the weather. Our bellies are full. Wine seems always to have been in my glass. It has been a lovely simple Christmas day, as Christmassy as any Christmas can be in a warm place. We got up late and deployed presents. Few squabbles ensued as to which ones Olive thought she deserved. Poor Alfi. Owns nothing. It is either used or stolen by Olive. Nevermind…she is starting to fight back. Either stealing Olive’s bunny or pulling her hair in her sticky mits. Olive better watch out.

Then we went out for Christmas lunch (we had forgotten to buy food despite the two supermarket trips spent provisioning the boat). The girls got to wear exceptionally pretty dresses that were given to them by a dear friend of mine. Thank you Shazia. They are the most beautiful dresses that will probably ever be in their locker and certainly the only to match. Here they are are looking like children of a bygone era. instead of grubby boat kids with fistfuls of bungee and legs covered in coloured pen.

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Quickly, we found a local restaurant with tables outside. The menu was given verbally in no uncertain terms. It comprised of either fish or fish. We opted for fish, the mixed grill for two. What arrived was a platter that would have fed four. We ate the whole thing. And along with an entire tuna salad that she polished off, Olive also made a bid for the fish heads! All washed down with beer. Totally delicious.

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Then a stroll to the play park for some swings and slides. (If you should ever need to know of any play parks between Falmouth and here, just ask. Play parks and supermarkets. And bakeries, tourist centres, fresh veg markets. Oh yeah, and chandleries. How to plot the globe!)

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There are some very sweet videos that my connection aint having, so Ill have to post those another day.

So now we are vertical, vegging out. Most probably in a similar state to you. Happy. Sated. Bit bloated. Bit knackered. Very gratefully, wine assisted. Feeling positive whilst watching my kids and thinking of you all back there. Happy Christmas!

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24 dec

It is Christmas Eve.

We are in Lanzarote and have been here since 19th. The first three days in a lovely anchorage. But intended weather blew us in to the marina, where we are now. Or in fact, did all it could to blow us away from it. Getting here was an eventful hour of sailing into the wind which I’d rather not repeat. I think at one point we were actually going backwards. Or at least felt very stationary. But once more, we arrived safely if a little wet and shell shocked by the conditions.

However that experience was nothing compared to the shock of sailing with kids again, after eight weeks on Graciosa living a landed and easy life. We did in the end, overcome the shock of that and bright lights big city. Noises, cars, people, stuff being sold everywhere, transactions occurring…but until we did it is true the wheels of this family machine did fall off. Momentarily. But acclimatised we did and since then we have been getting stuff done to prepare for the next leg. The biggest thus far. Major milestone met leading directly toward the Atlantic. So. We are provisioning – today the boat swallowed kilos of wine, pasta, rice, tins and jars and spices. From here on wine gets expensive, so we need stocks. I am amazed at how much stuff we have stowed away. This boat impresses me all the time.

So, what of the plan? The weather? The plan is as it has always been, to head south. But only once the weather looks settled. This is slow in coming but once it comes, we will be like butter of a hot knife to get south. So what if it has taken us much longer than planned. If we cannot stop and stare now, when will we ever. Anyway, the weather has stalled us all the way, so we continue to patiently wait for the last and final push towards those warm latitudes. We are ready. We have had months aiming for the next step, psychologically if not practically. Hence there are a few more jobs to do. And then back to the anchorage to wait for blessed weather.

But for now, HAPPY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL.

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18 december

Finally. We plan to leave this island tomorrow. Heading to Lanzarote, a half day sail away. There we will provisoin, do some boat jobs and wait for the next window. It looks like there could be one opening on Christmas Eve…we will see. WOohoo! Movement! We will of course keep you posted.

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