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Monday, 21 December 2009

Snow brrrrrrr.

The snow came down at the weekend and with Christmas just a few days away we're being distracted from the dream at the moment. Anyway, this reminds me why we want to sail in the Caribbean and not the Irish sea. It seems ages now since Luperon although it was only 10 days ago. We're going to do our Day skipper course in the new year, and we're thinking of doing the London boat show, just to feed our addiction, in January, that'll be something to look forward to.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Goosewinged and guitarless in Luperon

Tom runs the marine outfitters store at Puerta Blanca "marina", although I think you can only buy Snickers bars there. He's a sort of friend of Rays and he has a solid dingy that doesn't need pumping up at all. He will be our agua gua gua this morning, and with seven us in what should be a four man dingy, we're a little low in the water. There's just a hint of chop on the surface this morning, but as Tom takes it slowly we make Odyessy completely dry (not quite but I'm not complaining) and climb aboard.
It's a perfect morning for sailing, the sun shines in a cloudless sky and in Luperon bay there's a slight breeze. We take off the sail cover and attach the shackle of the main halyard to the peak of the mainsail, start the engine and cast off from the mooring. I take the helm and steer our now familiar course pass the boats at anchor on the far side of the bay heading for the tricky entrance where we've run aground twice already. Ray tells me to pass close to the anchored boats keeping them to starboard, although watching the depth gauge slip quickly from 13ft to 10 then suddenly to 6ft we bump to a halt. Grounded yet again, we should have kept the boats to port, as we're leaving at low water. Whoops, we may need our Irishman again, but Ray throws her into reverse and we slide free.
At the bay entrance we spot two new marker posts that have appeared, mysteriously, but not trusting them we pick our own course gingerly out to sea. This time we get through without incident.
Even out on the Ocean the seas are fairly flat but theres enough breeze to sail and soon the sails are set and we head towards El Castillo. Martin wants to find a bay where we can swim but we will have to sail down wind to get there. We unfurl the jib and set the sails in a goosewing, that is when you have the main sail on one side of the boat and the jib furled on the other. This turns out to be a difficult sail as the wind is behind us but the swell is coming on the starboard beam, or right hand side. The Jib fills with wind and loses the wind constantly causing it to flap furiously and then snap full. We sail like this for at least a couple of hours making very slow progress. Me and Jackie take turns at the helm, but progress is slow. Funny I thought with the wind behind us we would be going fast but it's not the case. Ray checks the chart against the GPS and reckons we're not going to have enough time to do this trip so we all agree to return to Luperon instead. By this time the wind has picked up considerably and so have the seas. We spend the next three hours making long tacks against the wind to get back to base. All this tacking involves lots of resetting of sails which is great practice, and I start to get a real feel for helming the boat and getting the best speed whilst sailing as close to the wind as I can. By the end of today I'm feeling that I'm starting to really understand how to sail. By the time we get close to Luperon the seas are quite big, no breaking waves but never the less quite challenging, Windermere and Morecambe bay will seem tame to this. Having this experience should be excellent grounding when we get back to England and start our Day skipper course.
Ray takes over for the entrance into the bay, and with the tide now high we have an incident free end to our day. We flake the sails put on the cover and Tom comes out to pick us all up and take us back to the marina.
Of course there had to be an incident, this is sailing with Ray after all. Ray had come down to the marina in his car, and in the back he had my guitar and his dog. When we arrived back at puerta blanca there is no car to be seen. It seemed that his sail boat buddy Jerome, had borrowed it to take his wife to Puerta Plata airport for a 5.30pm flight. He won't be back till at least 7pm and Martin and Suzy want to be back before dark. The easy solution would be for us to meet Jerome on the way but as is always the case with Ray, bless his soul, nothings that easy. Jerome doesn't have a mobile phone, everybody on this island has a mobile phone, but not Jerome. The only solution is for Ray to come and pay us a visit tomorrow and return my guitar. He has to go into Puerta Plata for a, lets just say, a delicate medical test, tomorrow and it will give him a chance to show Barry another side to Dom Rep.
Sure enough they arrive next day with my guitar, but they've had trouble with the radiator over heating and have had a precarious journey having to constantly stop to top up the radiator. He'll get back OK he reckons if they take it easy. Oh well what more could we expect, only to say that sailing with Ray has been an incident filled adventure and one that we will remember with much affection, for him, Barry man, and the sailboat Odyssey. Tomorrow we fly back to the UK with a wealth of experience and a thirst for the next chapter in our sailing story.

Health & Safety at work

I can't leave this blog today without a note about Ray's life-raft. He had us in stitches as he described how he tried to test it after discovering that it was not secured to the deck. Before drilling holes in his deck and ever-mindful of Health & Safety, Ray thought he would bring the life-raft ashore to check it out. He wrestled it on board the dingyand brought it up to the Marina in full view of the bar and all it's occupants. Under the cover the canister looked a little corroded so he pulled the cord and the six-man lift-raft started to inflate and the dome raised nearly full height - when 'BANG' it exploded and deflated like a popped balloon much to the mirth of the many onlookers. The water sachets in the life-raft said 'use by 1986' - just a little out of date. Ray rescued a little coit (spelling? anyway a little rubber ring thing that we used to play with as kids) with a thin orange rope which he now has proudly attached to the back of the boat in case of man-overboard. Ever the optimist, Ray said 'Oh well it saves me drilling holes in the deck then, and I've plenty life-vests on board'. Very reassuring.

Blessings in disguise

Continued by the First Mate...
I was soaked through and had to sit on a towel whilst we waited for Ray to arrive. After another round of G&Ts, Ray reasoned that it was probably the guy who had borrowed his dingy and who must have turned the pump valve the wrong way letting the air out. We agree that it was probably a good thing that the engine cut out or we may have sunk half way across Luperon Bay so that's good then. But we're still up for Shaggies Bar and Ray says he'll drop us off at a hotel in the centre of town so we can walk along to Shaggies later and we leave Colin's guitar in his car. The hotel looks a bit typico but anything will do as I need to get out of my wet shorts. A smiling Dominican opens a gate and we climb the stairs to our room and its going to be OK - very clean and amazingly hot and cold water and at the same time! Can't help feeling a little sorry for Martin and Susy although they will have the pleasure of a wonderful dawn at the Yacht Club. We shower and change and head off to Shaggies for a night of music and meatloaf (not the musician just some food) but there are only two german guys there. Shaggie is leaning back in a chair and the bar seems to be shut. Shaggie opens the bar as Ray, Barry, two Carmens and a Jessica arrive. The girls are young and Ray's Carmen is very beautiful but the language barrier prevents much conversation between us. Colin gets out his guitar and Shaggies Dominican girlfriend joins him in a rendition of a Beatles song. Later Colin sings the Luperon song again to much applause from Ray and Barry. 'James Bond meets Dr No' goes down particularly well as Jessica joins in with the chorus of 'Eye Eye Eye'. Now we're really hungry and Shaggie has no food so we head off to look for some pico pollo. Luperon is in darkness as we have the usual 'outage', there are oil lamps here and there and we eventually find ourselves outside a typico comida place but they have nothing left. A few steps away and we are in a little painted wooden shack with a tin roof. It's spotless and in the corner a fire burns under a caldron. The master of the house finds plastic chairs from somewhere and soon we have a huge spread of plantains, meat of unspecified kind but very delicious and some ensalada. We all tuck in and then Colin and I head back to our deserted hotel and sink a few rums as we play a game or two of backgammon on the balcony over-looking the streets of Luperon and we look forward to another day of sailing with Captain Ray.
In the morning we awake at dawn and after a refreshing shower we sit on the balcony and watch Luperon come alive as we eat chunks of fresh pineapple and papaya. A stray dog tips a metal drum over, spilling litter onto the street and one or two moto-conchos drive by. After a while the traffic starts to increase and a trickle, then a stream of children, neat in their school-uniforms pass by. Shops start to open and I watch a large Dominican guy clear his nose as he raises the shutters on his Gift Shop, named Jumbo's rather aptly. OK so we had the beautiful dawn at the Yacht Club last week but this is fun and we feel we are experiencing Dominican life in the raw. As the sun hits the balcony the town is buzzing with moto-conchos darting about in the usual chaotic way. We stroll out to find an Orange shop which is only a few yards away and is open. Colin tops up his phone so we can ring Susy and Martin and we wander down to the Upper Deck for breakfast and to rendevous with our sailing companions.

Friday, 11 December 2009

That sinking feeling

It's our last week here in the Dominican Republic and Suzy and Martin have suggested that we have a fun day out together. They have bought a second hand, but newish 4 x 4, and we're going to Luperon for another days sailing with Ray. As with all our adventures here, this one will have it's hiccups. On the way we stop for lunch at Colfresi, at a little beachfront restaraunt but when Suzy opens the car door to leave the alarm starts up and no amount of furiously pushing buttons on the key fob seems to make any difference. The alarm just keeps cycling through it's whoop whoop, wha wha, nee naw nee naw sequence. Martin is on the phone to the guy he bought it off when a young moto concho man comes to our rescue. He finds the wire to the alarm and pulls it off. The alarm stops, but the car still won't start. A few minutes later another young man on a motor cycle pulls up and reckons he's an electrico, and out of his rucksack produces a circuit tester. This looks promising, I think, although Martins not at all sure he wants a Dominican style fix to his new car. The electrico dives beneath the steering colums and yanks at something and suddenly all is now quiet, and he turns the key and starts the engine. Muchos gracias, we're out of trouble and on our way although 400 pesoes lighter, but we don't mind cause now we can get on with our "fun" day out.
We arrive at the Luperon yacht club at about 5pm, order a cerveza, and check on rooms but they've only one available. We phone Ray who's happy for me and Jackie to stay on his boat for the night and so we arrange to meet him in an hour at the puerta blanca "marina". The plan is that we will all be going to eat at Shaggies bar later, and being Wednesday there'll be a bit of a session going on. However this plan stumbles as Suzy and Martin don't fancy taking their new car into Luperon in the dark, and would prefer to have dinner at the yacht club and a quiet night. Ok, no problem, we say, we can take Rays dingy to the boat, drop our stuff and pop over the harbour to the town jetty which is just a stones throw from Shaggies bar. Well that's the plan.
Suzy and Martin drop us at puerta blanco with one overnight bag, a rucksack, a cool bag with wine and rum plus mixers,and a guitar in a flight case.
We find Ray pumping up the dingy, which as you may remember, has a slow puncture, but that's fine as it stays pumped up for a good few hours once inflated. We load all our gear into the dingy which makes for a tight squeeze for the crew of two but we're fine and I fire up the engine. By now it's completely dark but we've done this trip before, it'll take us about five minutes to reach Rays boat. Due to a minor problem, Ray's dingy engine has no neutral, and as soon as the engine kicks in we speed away from the key and wave farewell to Ray saying we'll meet him later at Shaggies.
Jackie is perched on the front and as the night is rather windy the bay is choppy and Jackie is catching the spray so I slow down as we pass the end of the jetty and turn but just then the engine dies. As I try to start restart it we're being blown back but it just won't fire. We have a small torch and I check the fuel, it seems full, but with the wind we're in all sorts of trouble so we take to the oars and paddle back to the jetty. I try the engine again and this time it starts and we're on our way, but again we only get as far as the end of the pier when it cuts out again. Now we're drifting underneath a big catermaran and only just manage to claw our way out and start back on the one
oar we have free. We're blown back again going in circles till the engine fires but within seconds stops. The other thing that we've now noticed is that the dingy seems to be deflating a lot faster than it had in previous trips. We aren't far from the jetty but we now seem to have no engine, are trying to steer with one oar, and we will soon be sailing in a deflated dingy. Better abandon this ship, and get back to the jetty pronto. We release the other oar, although Jackie is in no position to use it. We're not exactly panicking at this point but lets say nerves are a little frayed, and when Jackie asks which way she should row and I say "the right way", lets just say this doesn't ease the situation, but some how manage to make the end of the jetty. The problem here though is that the jetty is about 4ft high and we're heading under it. Somehow Jackie manages to heave herself out of a very floppy dingy and onto the floating pontoon whilst I hastily throw her our bags and the guitar. By the time I get out the dingy is about two thirds deflated, but at least we're back on dry land. It's been half an hour since we set off and we're back at the puerta blanca "marina"bar with a couple of stiff G&Ts. Tonight we won't be sleeping on the boat.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Second lesson in running aground

First Mate's submission...
Despite problems with mobile phones and unlikely-to-be-received messages on Facebook via a borrowed laptop in Shaggies last night, Susy phones to say they were on their way to join us for some sailing. Martin is dead keen although he worries that Susy will be seasick but she is determined to try new things and have new adventures. They join us at Puerto Blanco just after 10am and we make two trips in the dingy to get us all aboard. It's a perfect day with a good breeze and we set about taking off the sail cover and making ready as Ray starts the engine and we head off to negotiate the tricky exit of Luperon Bay. We are now pretty confident we know where the narrow deep channel is and where to squeeze between the two reefs. Ray is at the helm but is getting acquainted with Martin and loses concentration as we approach the little beach where we should turn sharply to starboard. He misses it and we go aground on a sandbank (again!). Ray puts the engine into full ahead but no progress forward, just sideways as the wind pushes us towards the beach. It's all a bit chaotic and I worry that Susy will be losing confidence as we wallow about on the sandy bottom. Suddenly a dingy approaches at full speed and a friendly Irishman pops his head over the side to offer assistance. We quickly hand him a halyard and he drags Odyssey over on her side, lifting the keel off the sandbank and we move slowly forward. Ray calls over that he owes our saviour a bottle of rum as we continue out towards the reefs. Once in open water Colin hoists the mainsail and we trim in the jib as Ray shuts down the engine and we're off out to sea. This is exhilarating sailing with breaking waves and with a strong wind we are soon a mile or so off land. As we clear the headland the swell increases strongly and we have some huge waves which Ray's boat takes in her stride. Susy is quiet but seems to be hanging on in with Martin sitting close as Colin and I take turns at the helm and lines. Barry nods off as his crewing skills don't seem to be in demand. Somthing tells me his evening didn't end at Shaggies last night. Martin and Susy are sitting on the upper deck in front of the liferaft and as they lean in response to a large wave the liferaft slips to one side. Ray admits that securing this vital item of equipment is yet another job that needs doing, the liferaft is just resting on the deck so Ray spends most of the voyage leaning against it to prevent it going overboard. Susy asks Ray innocently, 'What happens if someone does go overboard?'. 'I'll give you a demonstration' says Ray and I wonder who is going to get the short straw. But Ray pulls out a tissue, throwing it overboard he says we will pick it up before it sinks. Ray pushes the tiller hard over and Odyssey turns on a sixpence, sails flapping madly until we are suddenly heave-to, with the jib fighting the mainsail we have virtually stopped and there in the water is the tissue. Confidence restored!
On the way back Colin offers Martin the helm and he jumps at the chance. Holding a steady course we crash through the waves and Martin, now grinning from ear to ear, lets out a 'Yee Hah' as spray wets us through to the skin. Martin is clearly loving this and has sailed many times before. He takes us safely back into Luperon Bay and I know this won't be for the last time as he's already talking about buying a boat. As we approach the mooring, Barry gets the boat hook and with Colin they wrestle with it at the bow trying to pick up the lines. Somehow Barry drops the boathook and its chaos again. We are floundering about with the current and wind pushing us dangerously close to the mangroves and shallow water. Ray keeps the engine in forward as we try to maneouvre the boat close to the dingy amid much shouting and hand signals. Barry hands Colin his hearing aid in preparation for jumping in to retrieve the boathook. Quick thinking Martin jumps into the dingy and we are safe once again but the boathook, well that floats by towards the mangroves never to be seen again. Back at the Marina and after some lunch and a cold beer, we say goodbye to Captain Ray and Barry and thank them for yet another enjoyable and eventful days sailing. Let's hope we can do it again soon.
For Martin and Susy the adventure didn't end here. Their car broke down just out of the Marina and somehow we drove past them, getting close to the Puerto Plata turn off before Susy phoned to ask if we would come back to get her. We picked up Susy leaving Martin to wait for a tow truck which meant Colin had to negotiate the traffic in darkness but we arrived home safe and sound, followed by Martin a couple of hours later, none the worse for wear and still on a high.

Shaggies bar, Luperon

Shaggies bar is in the centre of Luperon on a street littered with potholes and many dominican style shops and workshops. The street looks like it has been abandoned many years ago but in actual fact it's part of the thriving heart of Luperon. Halfway down the street is Shaggies bar, it's a yard with a cana roofed affair behind a small wall with a sort of couple of sheds nailed on the back, one of which is the banos, the other the kitchen/bar. The place is packed, that is all 30 odd chairs are filled with Ex pat faces, all yachties we suspect from the bay. I've brought my guitar, but not too sure what the crack is, we find a couple of plastic chairs and order a cerveza. Next thing we've been spotted by Jeff and Lucy from last night at the yacht club and they join us. Jeff has his own bottle of premium rum and looks determined to get drunk. He's had a bad day as he's just discovered that his yacht has been vandalised, all his lines have been cut through whilst he's been away in Las Vegas. He's in no mood to play music and in the mood for getting drunk. We move tables which proves to be a mistake as we're now in the vicinity of the loudest mouth in Luperon. Lana has her four kids here and it's her birthday, which maybe made it worse, but the frequency of this voice behind me is sharp enough to compete with lightning and the tales she's telling sound more than chilling, this a woman not to be crossed. 'You want cake' she screams at the gathering and I shudder as the decibels rattle my eardrums.
We order the special meal, which is meatloaf and mash potato and watch the PA and a drum kit being set up in the yard. Meanwhile Jeff is proving to be an unwelcome dinner guest, but we're too polite to say anything. Ray and Barry arrive and sit with us which relieves the tension but I'm now of the opinion that Jeff is not my kind of friend, he's loud and just a bit obnoxious, due no doubt to the intake of rum.
Once the drums and PA are set up the stage is set, and there's a guy called Bill whose restringing an electric guitar so it looks like this a serious style jam session, how wrong I was.
There's a guy with a saxaphone, a drummer, Bill and me. Bill noodles about on a very out of tune guitar and I decide to plug in and join them. Turns out that Bill is not at all competent but the sax player and drummer are fine and I take the mic and do a rendition of Stormy Monday. This is sounding really promising and even though Bill can't quite follow us, between me the drummer and sax player it's going well, and by the big finish we get an enthusiastic round of applause. We tackle another couple of tunes before Jeff decides to join us on Bills' out of tune guitar. From this point the session goes slowly downhill until I leave the stage for a beer and a cigarette as Jeff has now taken over playing some durgey blues.
When the drummer and sax player get sick of this and leave the stage I jump in to give a rendering of my new song "Seadogs in old Luperon". I remember 95% of it but break a D string just before the end, but it goes down well.
Now Jeff is back up with his wife Lucy on flute playing music to cut your throat to and at this point Barry says he's leaving as he can't stand anymore. Barry goes up 100 points in my estimation and I pay our bill and me and Jackie sneak out about twenty minutes later, although many of the other patrons have also left by now. I get compliments from Shaggies owner and a couple of others who ask if I'll be back even though I only did a few tunes. It seems they're starved of people who have got some semblance of talent, so it would be nice to go back but perhaps without bill and Jeff who muscled in but didn't bring anything to the table except ego.
We get back to the yacht club at about 9.30 to find the place in absolute darkness and not a soul around. We find a light switch by the bar and sit down with a bottle of rum and play a few games of backgammon before turning in for the night.
When we wake at dawn the club is still deserted, and there's no water to shower so we go for a swim in the pool and watch the sunrise. We pack and leave at 8 with still no trace of any staff and go for breakfast at the top deck in Luperon. At 10am we're back at Puerto Blanco waiting for our friends Suzy and Martin who are joining us to sail again today with captain Ray and Barry.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

cross that one off the list

Continued by First Mate...
We pick up a scruffy guy with a bag and a pretty Dominican girl who look like they need a lift into town. What a small world, the drums turn out to be his, tricky to keep on his boat and ferry backwards and forwards. Geoff (or another Jeff) will be playing at Shaggies on Wednesday night and takes us on a tour of Luperon pointing out various places to eat which are all closed. He takes us past Shaggies before we drop him off near a herd of moto-conchos. There's a guy roasting most of a pig on a bar-be-que and later we regret not picking up a bag of this delicious looking pork. We stop to buy cigarettes and Colin points out a sheep in a shop doorway just watching the world go buy or maybe it's just waiting for the shops to open. Our search for breakfast in Luperon proves futile so we head back to the Marina to wait for the staff, a meagre toastie sandwich and much-needed coffee. Ray turns up and has a list of minor repairs he hopes Colin can help him with and, after pumping up the leaky dingy we head out to Odyssey.
The boys bond over marine electrics and auto-pilots whilst I sit on the upper deck enjoying the tranquil scene and pondering on which boat to buy. Trying to make myself useful, I haul up a bucket of sea water to wash the decks down but only manage to wipe around the hatches and clean up a little. Eventually Colin and Ray have managed to fix the light on the compass but other things need parts or modifications so we motor back to the Marina for a beer and some lunch. Later we wander around to look at a boat which had sunk. The new owner is trying to raise it from the deep, watched by other yachties who all have opinions on the best way to do it. I notice the boat is one that is on my list of possible boats to buy - cross that one off then! What a shame, it is a lovely classic yacht with a teak deck that's going to need some major refitting. We pick our way back along the rickety wooden walkway, stepping over soaked foam seating and other bits of the interior of the sunken yacht. Arrangements made to meet Ray and Barry at Shaggies later we set off in our hire car followed by our Captain and his crew on an orange scooter (which could belong to a past girlfriend of Ray's but that's another story).
I'll leave the story of Shaggies to my skipper, suffice to say it was hectic, chaotic and loud with some interesting looking folk - just what I'd expected but more so. Next day Ray thinks he may have lost his phone when Barry ditched the scooter and tipped him into a bush. Later we find it on the boat with 43 missed calls from his 26 year old girlfriend.

Luperon Yacht club

Tuesday Dec 1st, we arrive back in Luperon to go sailing again at Captain Rays' unique sailing escuela, and we're going to be here for three days so we've decided to seek out some accommodation instead of staying on Rays yacht. Jackie has googled a couple of possible small hotels in Luperon, but after a quick reccy we head for the Luperon yacht club on the off chance of getting a room there. When we arrive the car park is full and we find a full scale wedding reception underway. They have rooms at $50 a night for two, the room we can have has a toilet and shower, aircon, two single beds and a full drum kit!
We'll move the drum kit, she says and we accept the room. The yacht club is a two tier round cana roofed building that overlooks the wide expanse of Luperon bay. The party is underway downstairs where a live salsa band is setting up, whilst we opt for a cold Pesidente on the top terrace. This is when we meet with Jeff and Lucy, he's English and she's an American, they've just got back from Las Vegas where they went to get married. We and this couple are the only non party goers there so of course we fall into conversation and for the next couple of hours enjoy the overspill of the frivolities downstairs as well as tales from Jeff and Lucy of sailing exploits and other less nautical things. Over the next couple of days we'll hear more about this odd couple, she seems a gentle soul whilst Jeff is quite the opposite, perhaps to the extent of crass, but maybe it's the aftermath of their own celebrations and a little too much vitamin R.
We've come to Luperon, midweek to go to Shaggies bar where there's a sort of open mic, jam session on Wednesday and I'm going to go and play a few tunes and meet some of the "local" musos, who are all expat yachties. Jeff, it turns out is one of these, and his wife, Lucy, also plays flute, they'll be there tomorrow.
At about 10pm, with the party now running down and Jeff and Lucy gone we go off to our room. The aircon isn't working and the Luperon night air hangs heavy, the fan just about moves the heat around but doesn't cool us. The lights are out in Luperon but the yacht club has it's own generator, unfortunately the generator is situated on the roof directly over our room. Fortunately we have consumed the required amount of rum to send us both soundly off to sleep, eventually.
We wake before dawn, the yacht club is deserted and Jackie takes an early morning dip in the infinity pool as the sun inches into a clear blue sky, and a giant full moon, all shimmering silver dips below the opposite hill. The choice of a room at the yacht club may have lots of faults in the fixtures and fittings dept but we can't fault the dawn, this is worth the $50, well maybe $25. which is what it costs in the end.
Today we're meeting Ray and are going to help him fix some things on his boat, we've arranged to meet at 9am at puerto blanca marina, and as there's no breakfast at the yacht club we head on down there at about eight to try and find a coffee and a bite to eat.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Sailing with Captain Ray.

19 53.60N 70 57.0W
We're in Luperon at the Puerta Blanca so called "Marina", it's 9.30am and we're half an hour early, so we've ordered breakfast and are waiting for Ray to arrive to take us on a weekend sail down to El Castillo. Ray arrives with his friend Barry at about 10, and over coffee we get the low down on our itinary. Plans have changed, since we spoke a few days ago, because Ray tells us, that to leave Luperon he would need a despachio, which basically is a piece of paper from the harbour master to say we are not new arrivals to the country. Without this we can't dock in El Castillo so Ray suggests we go for a day sail and return to Luperon Bay for the night.
Ray then tells us that although he bought his boat, a 36ft contessa, three years ago he has only sailed it for one day and that was yesterday when he and Barry took it out to see if everything still worked. Still he seems confident that every things fine and so we head off to the jetty to climb aboard the dingy, although first Ray has to blow up the dingy as it's got a slow leak that he's tried to fix but so far he's failed to find it. Well I know what he means little leaks can be a bother, so we brush this off as an everyday hazard with dingies. Hold on, says Ray as he goes to start the out board it may shoot off at high speed as he has to start it at full throttle.The engine kicks into life and in a cloud of smoke we leave the jetty and skip across the calm waters of Luperon bay to find "The Odyssey" waiting serenely at anchor for us. On board we find ourselves on a blokes boat, it's a bit of a mess to tell the truth and badly needs a womans touch, and a good bit of spit and polish. Anyway we're hardly going to be below so what the heck, we're here to learn to sail, and what we can see, and understand the bits that make the boat go are all there and Ray exudes an air of confidence that make us relaxed and ready to and learn to sail.
Ray shows us where the life jackets are, although we never put them on I'm reminded now, and showed us the toilet, which for some bizarre reason they call Head, and the rest of the downstairs stuff.
Once underway, Ray turns on his hand held GPS and gets out the chart. His chart for Luperon bay is an A4 copy given to him by a friend in Luperon which, although the course is clearly marked, it's relation to the shore is a little unclear to me. However there are, what they call waypoints, which are marked on a map of the sea and correspond to degrees of longitude and latitude. North to south lines go one way and the others go around the circumference, listen to me with me long words, they both represent 360 degees of a circle, and I remember being taught about that in school 50 years ago, and now I get to use it. A GPS can pinpoint where you are at sea to within a yard. So looking at the readout on his GPS Ray is confident that we're on course and we putter out towards the mouth of the Bay, and out to sea. The waypoints, scribbled in biro on the "chart" proved to be fine. In my RYA dayskipper manual Ive read up on the international rules of the bouying systems,for harbors, and expected the same, or if not a little like it here. But when you leave Luperon there are no bouys. So these waypoints are crucial to the sailors, especially leaving and entering harbour. Ray has put Barry on the tiller, and Barry is not the quickest of wits, and once or twice on the way out we had Ray chastising Barry for his heading skills, and his confusion in picking out transits, or landmarks as your landlubber would call them. Besides the GPS Ray has a bit of kit made by "Garmin" which I recognize from our Largs start yachting course. It tells you your depth and speed, unfortunately, this one is displaying no digits where it says speed, Ray has still to figure out how make that work, but he can get that from the GPS if he needs to. Cool, and those other three instruments that don't seem to be moving, oh that's the wind speed, but it's broken, the wind direction, is also not working plus another dial that stayed static. This made up the electronics of the Odyssey, although we did have a VHF radio that now and then would crackle into life, but only when someone in Luperon bay was organizing another sailors party so we paid it no attention. The seas off the North coast of DR are often rough but today is just a pleasent 3 to 4ft swell and a good stiff inshore breeze. Lets go sailing.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Encounters of the Luperon kind

We're holed up in our apartment just east of caberete on the North coast of Dom. Republica. We arrived late Sat, and after a get over it day on Sunday we decided last night, over a couple of margaritas that today would be a good day to visit Luperon. Like I said in the previous entry, we are hoping to connect with a guy called Ray whose offered to give us some lessons whilst we're out here on holiday for the next month.
Being from the Uk were about 4 hours ahead of the time here so we're always up very early, this morning we were up at about 4.30am. We figured it would take about two hours to drive to Luperon so we watched the dawn come up over our beautiful beach and after breakfast set off at about 8am.
We had a map, courtesy of the National geographic society, that we were hoping was going to guide us there, but by the time we left Puerta Plata we were starting to realise that this map wasn't exactly helpful. The main problem is that in Dom Rep you very rarely get signs that tell you where your going so at best it's aguess that your on the right road. Number two problem is that towns that appear on the map are not on the road that we're taking, and towns that are signed are'nt on our map. Anyway we found the Luperon turning and eventually Luperon itself. A quick enquiry as to where the Marina was, and we're told straight on. But staight on takes us 20 miles out of our way. We turned round and after backtracking to Luperon we eventually pull into the Luperon yacht club only to find out that it's open everyday except Monday. Today is Monday, doh.
The yacht club sounds very grand and although it's got a couple of infinity pools the size of a saucer I think it's seen better days, maybe when it's humming it's a different vibe but today it looked a little forlorn, and abandoned. We take one of the myriad of tracks to find ourselves at a keyside bar. At least we've found some water and some boats and best of all a bar where we can buy a cold cerveza. This place is also very quiet but there's someone to serve us a beer and that's enough. We ask about Gill, but recieve blank responses, we need to find Gill, who sells the boats to find Ray whose going to maybe take us sailing.
We run into a German lady in her mid 60s' who speaks English and knows Gill, but doesn't know how we get in touch with him even though she's had her boat on his books on and off for some time. She's been here for four years after sailing from Germany. She can't live on land she says, too many problems, and prefers to stay anchored here in Luperon bay. She gives us all sorts of negatives about buying boats here or even sailing here, it's all too difficult, but we take this with a pinch of briney, it's not what we want to hear and go off looking for Gill. After abortive sorties around the myriad of tracks we're back at the bar and run into a guy who says follow me I'm going to pass by Gills house. About a mile from the "marina/bar" we finally track down Gill, Luperon yacht sales man.
Gill lives in a building that is based around a container that he put on this piece of land some years back. It's hard to spot the container now but a part of it is still his office. The other 2/3rds has been converted to bedrooms. He's a conveinial grey haired, but wirery Canadian who seems easy to talk to. He says he'll call Ray who may come around, which he does a few minutes later. Rays wearing shades and reminds me of my friend Tony, who went of to live in Thiland. He's seventy but seems full of beans and is obviously enjoying his expat, ex-deceased wife life style in the wild west type of town that is Luperon. Ray is a Newcastle man and still has the jordy lilt to his tonuge, I feel very easy in his company' but I'm not sure if he's really a proper sailor at this point or just some one with a boat eager to make a few bob.
He takes us off to meet with a man he's going to buy a telly off, the telly is on a boat in the bay and we drive off to meet Jerome. Jerome has a 38ft boat moored out in the bay, and we meet him on the ramshakle pier just on the edge of town. How we missed this bit of Luperon I don't know, but soon were in a dingy bobbing out to Geromes boat. My boats for sale, he says , what you looking for. That's exactly what the German lady said. Everybody here seems is stuck here trying to sell their boat. Anyway we get on board Jeromes boat, have a beer and he demos his TV to Ray.
Afterwards we motor back to the keyside in the punt and Jerome takes Rays car, which he's hired for a few hours to go pick somebody up from the airport. We chat to Ray about sailing and got into town to conclude our intro in a humble small cafe that Ray recommends. Here we here a little more of Rays adventures at sea, that are very entertaining, and give me more cofidence that we may just be able to learn a little more about the dark art of reefing and rigging, especially on the North coast of Dom. Rep.
He insists we come and visit his dominican domain, where lemon trees and Mango grow in his Garden. But the house is a bit of a dissapointment, a little spartan, and a lot unkempt. The garden is also a wasteland of scrub stretching for all but 10 yards. But to give the man his dues it did have mango and lemon trees in it, I think.
We've taken Rays number and have said we're up for a voyage round the headland where we'll stop for the night before coming back to Luperon. There's a nice little fish resteraunt he knows in El castillo which sounds good to me, we'll stay overnight and sailback the next day. We can't get a price out of him but it will be less than Sunsail in the BVI, he says. I thinke he's a bit embarassed about money so we don't press that one, and just agree that sometime in the next week I'll call him and we'll arrange a time and a place. It's not exactly RYA but it's sailing in the Dominican Republic, and that;s enough for me, and it's enough for Jackie. We leave at about four and head back to Orilla Del Mar, a two hour drive at prime chaos time on the road through peuta plata, but arrive before dark, infact with just enough light left for a dip in the pool, and a debrief of the day to Louise and David' who have done Luperon. They liked it, but not for the same resons we did, we we're there for the boats, we had seen these boats on the internet and now here we were, and just a jot away from building on our start yachting course, but here in the caribbean, just down the road from our apartment, this was going to be a new adventure in Dom Rep and a little off beam, shall we say, but it fits in perfectly with our plan, so all we got to do now is call Ray, arrange a date, and we'll be sailing in the Caribbean.. Woooooooooooooooooooooooooweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Fate or what

We have been talking about going to The Dominican Republic for Christmas, perhaps for six weeks, but it's just impossible to find flights at anything like a reasonable price. Shall we go before Christmas, or maybe wait till February, when our apartments free. We've been back to Dom Rep every year since 2005, after buying an apartment there in 2006. We are planning to retire there in a few years, well I don't know about retiring, as we're as poor as church mice, but we intend to live out our autumn years where the sun shines, and maybe do something to bring in a few pennies.
So back to our dilemma of before or after christmas, and what about our continued quest to learn to sail. We have checked out sailing courses in Dom Rep but try as we might our trawling through the internet for courses has turned up nothing in the Dominican Republic. The nearest courses are in the British Virgin Islands, which is not far from Dom Rep but it's not easy to get there, and not cheap. Now whilst surfing around we did turn up one interesting place in Dom Rep and that's a place called Luperon. This an inlet on the north coast, about an hours drive from where we have our apartment. Seems this is a favourite haunt of Caribbean cruisers, as a safe haven from hurricanes, and a stop over point. It sounds like a place we would like, and they also sell yachts there, so we will definitely pay a visit on our next holiday.
We finally decided to book our holiday for late November, for four weeks. Jackie then emailed a guy called Gill who runs the boat sales in Luperon, who she had an exchange of emails with a couple of months ago regarding maybe staying on a boat there. She decided to ask him if there was anybody he knew who could teach us to sail as we had drawn a blank on the internet. He came straight back to us saying he would ask around and maybe knew someone.
Next thing we have an email back saying he's had a word with a guy called Ray, who is English, and gave us his email address. Jackie mails Ray, and Ray mails us back to say he's an ex RYA instructor and yachtmaster, now 70 and living in Luperon and will be happy to help us get some sailing lessons. In fact he's taking part in a round Hispanola reggata the weeks we're there and will be glad to have us aboard to crew. We can't believe our luck, we get to go on holiday to Dom Rep and to go sailing with a RYA instructor, how cool is that, fate or what.

Barcelona and Windermere

I can't believe it's been almost four weeks since we went on our start yachting course in Largs, but I suppose we've been busy at Ford Park with events every weekend to organise. Not that we've put our cruising life on the back burner, it's still with us every day, reading Ellen Macathur, taking on the world, again, and reading sailing blogs along with other books about sailing.
We have been also trying to decide where we go next with our sailing courses. We've found a company that runs RYA courses on Lake Windermere, which is only twenty minutes away and although it's not ocean sailing we could at least learn the basics with them. We have also been looking at doing courses in Gibralter and the Canaries, they're all about the same prices except for the air fares to get there, but at least it would be a bit warmer, well a whole lot warmer that here in England.
In the meantime we've been down to Barcelona for four days, mainly to see Leonard Cohen, but also as a bit of a mini holiday. We stayed in a hostal near to the port, and more importantly near to the Marina. Barcelona is a great city with lots of sights to see, but we soon made a bee line down to the marina to check out the boats. The place is absolutely crammed with yachts, so we were in our element, browsing these beautiful crafts, mostly way beyond our wildest dreams, but heck, this is some perverse heaven. We picked out the ones we would like, which usually were the more quirky and homely looking, if it had wooden grab rails and a bit of a teak deck that would be ours. We spent half the first day at the Marina, it seemed the natural way to start in Barcelona, maybe we're a bit obsessed. We even booked onto a jazz cruise on a giant catamaran, although that turned out to be a bit of a swizz as although they raised the sail once out beyond the harbour there was no wind and they kept the engine ticking over whilst we listened to a lone sax player busking along to backing tracks, very unsatisfying.
Back to Cumbria, and we finally connected with Neil, who runs OB Sailing, at Ferry Nab, on Windermere. He's got Four boats, Benetau and Janeaux's 34, 36, 38 footers and he seems like a good place to go next with our mission. We spent about half an hour chatting and it looks like this will be our next step to at least get the basics, he reckons about five days sailing will give us enough skills to sail by ourselves, at least up the lake, anchor up, and back to Bowness. That will cost us about one thousand pounds, then we could maybe go back to Largs to do our Dayskipper. We'll need to do that to get the hang of navigation which we won't get on the lake. Neils going on Holiday for a couple of weeks so we'll have to book something when he gets back.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

In the Doldrums

The scene that greets us at 7am is a beautiful cloudless sky and a flat calm sea. The bay is simply a reflection of the surrounding hillside, village and boats moored in the harbour. About 500 yards away across the bay is a three masted shooner, like the Cutty Sark that has a Tannoy system calling out instructions to its crew, what a picture, we could be in the caribbean but this is the west coast of Scotland, The crew of Santa Vey take a dip whilst we breakfast and try to figure out how we play out this day. We can do nothing but drop our mooring and motor out into the open water. We do this being tied in tandem to Santa Vey, but eventually we part company to sail across a flat calm sea and decide to practice anchoring somewhere off little Cumbrea, where we have lunch 50 yards from santa Vey. The wind never gets up at all, and we motor back to Cumbrea, return our unused supplies and head back to Largs where we arrive at 3pm. We clean out the boat, collect our belongings and say goodbye to our new found friends of Sants vey, Stewart and Skipper Dave. It has been a fantastic introduction to sailing, a memorable weekend, and we're now sure that our plan to sail the Caribbean will happen, we just need to have a plan. The dream has just become a doable reality, it may take us a couple of years but we now both know this is not a crazy dream it's perfectly possible.

Smuggling beers out of Lamlash

After lunch in Lochranza we set sail for Lamlash on the east coast of Arron where we will moor for the night and meet up with the crew of the companies sister boat Santa Vey. This involves runing with the wind which means we have the wind behind us but as the afternoon wears on the wind drops to next to nothing and we have to turn on the engine for the last hour or so as we head into Lamlash. Dave gets on to radio to contact santa vey and we tie up to their boat as the sun goes down. We feast on lasagne and the remains of our only bottle of white wine before heading for the pub. The only slight variation to a normal night at the pub is getting there. Our Mooring is some half a mile ofshore which will mean a trip in the blown up dingy we carry aboard. Mmm, it's a very small floppy dingy, but Dave and Steward seem confident it will do the job, although by now its dark and the shore seems a long way off. Never the less we arrive at the pier, rowed their by Dave, within about 10 minutes, and head for the pub on the front. I'll get these, says Stewart, no I will I say, no I insist says Stewart, why not just order first and argue over whose paying later or it'll be closing time says the landlord. Charming welcome, we think, but then it is Arron, we go for 3 Arron gold beers and a Tennents for Dave. We decide that it's a nice night so we go and sit outside and await the crew of SantaVey who arrive about 5 minutes later.
The Crew of Santa Vey is Skipper Dan, Ronda, Alisia and Olivia who's from Hong Kong but living in Glasgow. They're all in their late twenties, early thirties I would say and will have more stamina for this outing than Jackie and Colin. We spent a very pleasent evening getting to know each other, we're all on the start yachting course so it's fun to swap experiences. We hear of another pub after a couple of hours at the first, and although me and Jackie are ready for bo boes we have to tag along because our lift home to our boat depends on being rowed back by someone. When it comes time to go we ask at the bar for some beers to take out only to find that on Arron this is against the law. Drat, we were looking forward to a nightcap on board so we decide to try and pick some up from the first pub we went to and not mention taking them away with us. Dan is going to row us out to our boat, but meanwhile me and Jackie go off to the first pub to aquire some bottles. We slip outside pretending to sit and drink at the tables but immediately the police arrive and tell us we're not allowed to be outside after 10pm. We slip back inside and watch the cops dissappear. Quick as a flash we leave with the beers and meet Dan on the slipway. We climb into the tender feeling very guilty but elated at our subtefuge. We pull away from the key but we haven't gone more than 25yards when a pair of headlights appear on the keyside shining right at us. Oh no we've been rumbled, but Dan reckons we're in international waters and keeps rowing. After about 5 mintes the lights dissapear and we're gliding towards Somerled undercover of dark on a flat calm sea.
The others join us about 20 minutes later and we relate our tale of dareing do, all are very impressed and we spend the next hour in happy conversation before turning in for the night.

Kicker, sheet and topping lift

As we turn into the strait between Cumbrea and little cumbrea, we find the dark water Dave was on about, the water is choppyer here and sure enough there's enough wind to put up our sails. Before we can put up the sails we are told about the importance of KST, which stands for kicker,sheet and topping lift. This refers to three ropes, or lines, although one line is a sheet, just to confuse matters. The reason we're doing this is to raise the big heavy swinging boom arm at the bottom of the main sail so it is above our heads and won't knock us senseless,or into the sea when it flys across the boat, which it will do at times. We loosen the kicker, pull on the topping lift and loosen the sheet which is a line running through a series of pulleys just in front of the steering wheel,(helm). The boom is now raised above head hieght and it's time to put up the sails. We're told to come about, which means we have to turn the boat to face the wind. A swinging arrow at the top of the mast points to where the wind is coming from, and we put the engine into neutral. Dave shows us how to wind a rope, or halyard, around a winch, without trapping our fingers, pinky pointing at the winch, and with Stewart pulling on a line on the mast up goes the main sail flapping like mad as it climbs to the top of the mast some 30 odd feet above us. Next the Genoa is fed into a slot at the focsal and this too is flapping away. The Genoa line is locked in place with a thing called a rope jammer and one of the lines leading to the clew on the Genoa is wrapped around another winch on the opposite side of the top deck. Dave asks us to now steer the boat out of the head wind, and sunddenly the sails stop flapping, fill with wind and the boat sarts to move again, slowly at first but soon were doing 3 or 4 knots according to the speedo. Wowee how brill is this. It turns out that what we have to do is to steer a course that is about 45 degrees from the direction of the wind. If I get to close to the wind, as they say the sails start flapping and all I have to do is correct that is steer the opposite way to get the sails full again. Within minutes were doing the same speed as we were with the engine on, which was 6 knots, which Dave reckons is quite healthy. The wind we're told is about force 4 which Dave can read from looking at the wave tops.
To make progress, in a forward direction we will have to do what is known as tacking. This involves turning the boat through 90 degrees, and sailing in the opposite direction. What happens here is that two people man the two winches, one will release the line to the genoa whilst the other tightens the other line. The command for this action comes from the helm, and Dave tells me to say ready to go about, to which my crew have to respond, Ready, and I turn the wheel.
The sails go into a mad flapping once more, ropes wizz about, winches turn and in a few moments we're sailing again but we're now on what we learn is an opposite tack. We will have to do this again and again to move forward, we're quickly leaning one of the fundamentals of sailing, tacking. We swop jobs as each of us gets to grips with these new skills and at one point Jackie manages to clock an amazing 8.5 knots, this is exhilerating and so much fun. The weather is perfect, clear blue skys and a force 4 breeze to take us to our lunch destination which is a sheltered bay, called Lochranza, on the north west coast of the isle of Arron.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Heads, tacks clews, and dark water.

I'm first up at about 7am on Saturday morning, and I'm sitting on the back of the boat, which from here on in I'm to refer to as aft, and a Swan glides by on a flat calm sea. All around mountainous islands rise up out of these tranquil waters in which ever direction I look, but this doesn't look like a day for sailing, there's not a breath of wind. We breakfast on a full english and we are joined by Stewart who is about 25 and last night was behind the bar at the sailing centre. He is going to accompany us for the weekend as an extra hand on board, he's also learning how to sail, and has jumped at the chance of two days free cruiseing.
As there's little or no wind we have to use the engine for the first hour as we leave our overnight mooring and head towards little Cumbrea. With Jackie at the helm Stewart and I take off the main sail cover and get out a big sail, called a Genoa, which is big, and has to be hauled up to the front end of the boat and attatched to some ropes, that we will now call lines. We learn that the bit of the sail that will be at the top is the head, the bottom corner at the front is the tack, and the corner nearest us is called the clew. All clued up now we connect the head to a line at the sharp end, now called fo'ra'd, with a shackle and two red ropes are run through pulleys either side of the boat and are tied with a knot called a bowline onto the clew of the sail.
Skipper Dave explains that whoever is steering, or at the helm, needs to keep a 360 degree lookout for any other boats that we can see, and try to get a fix on them by lineing them up with something on our boat. If that fix changes we're not on a collision course, if it remains the same we might have to take evasive action. He also tells us to look out for dark water in the distance, as dark water seemingly means that it's windy there, and as it's a sailing course we should head in that direction.

Cumbrae, west coast of Scotland, 11th Sept.

We've packed all our warm clothes long johns and thermal tops, plus our full length deck boots as instructed and met our skipper at pontoon E8/9 at Largs Marina at 7.15pm on Friday night. We are half of a party of four, but the other couple haven't arrived yet. Our yacht for the weekend is a Jeanaeu 36 footer and as we're first there we take the opportunity to bagsi the forward bunk. We meet our instructor, Dave, who tells us to make ourselves at home whilst we wait for the other two. After numerous phone calls it's got round to 8.30 and Dave decides that we're going to leave without them. Looks like we've got ourselves an exclusive charter for the whole weekend as Dave fires up the engine to leave the Marina for the 20 minute sail to the Ilse of Cumbrea where we will pick up provisions from the Sport Scotland centre, have a drink and meet the crew of the other yacht that's going out this weekend.
The day has been beautiful and we've just witnessed an amazing sunset over the harbour but by the time we're underway it's almost dark.Ok Jackie, says Dave, come and take the helm, and as we're there to learn how to sail, Jackie dutifully takes her place behind this giant steering wheel at the back of a 36ft yacht and Dave engages 1st gear and the boat slowly pulls away fro the pontoon with Jackie steering! All around us are millions of pounds worth of moored yachts as we slowly make our way down this watery avenue heading towards a massive sea wall. Although Jackie doesn't let on she's not too good seeing in the dark as her contact lenses can play havoc with judgeing distance at night. Never the less here she is steering our boat closer and closer towards the wall. So far we haven't hit anything and I'm impressed, not only with her steering but with Daves' confidence in our abilities. About 20 ft from the wall Dave tells Jackie to gently turn to the right and the boat, Somerlea, swings round gracefully and we're in the exit channel from the Marina, and a few moments later we're clear of the breakwaters, passed the flashing beacon and heading into open water bound for Cumbrae which we can see in the distance across about a mile and a half of sea. The stars are out, the sea is calm and Dave puts Somerlea into top gear and we're cruiseing at 5 knots towards a red flashing light in the distance. About 20 minutes later Jackie is manouvering our yacht, under instruction, slowly into the gloom of the pier on Cumbrae. She wears a relieved grin of accomplishment, and I'm impressed as Dave and I hop onto the pontoon and tie up our yacht to the key. Dave has explained the way we tie her up with a sort of knot called OXO that we secure to the cleat on the keyside.Its completely dark by now, and once the boat is secure we head off along the long pier to collect our provisions for the weekend. It would have been wise to bring a torch with us for this excursion, but of course we didn't, so we pick our way slowly towards the buildings on the shore wher our stuff will be.
We pile it all in a trolley, take the perilous route back to Somerlea before returning to the centre to join the others in the bar to socialise before bedding down for the night aboard our home for the next two days.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Start Yachting course

So here it is the day we start to learn how to sail the kind of yacht we intend to buy. We booked ourselves onto a Start yachting course at Cumbrea on the west coast of Scotland. The thing you can always rely on is that on the west coast of Scotland it's going to be windy, but today we wake up to a weather forcast for the weekend that forcasts clear skies and NO WIND. Now as a complete novice I have this notion that to sail we need some sort of wind, so how we manage to pick this weekend when there is no wind is a mystery. Oh well, never mind we've booked the boat and we're packing our warm clothes and full length deck boots and we're heading north to Largs, to meet our boat at 7.30pm. Lets just hope that we get at least a breeze.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


In the RYA booklet, competent crew there's a couple of pages on knots, there's the figure of eight, the clove hitch, rolling hitch, and the bowline. I sort of recognise these, somewhere in the dark reaches of my 61 year old mind I sense my days in St Perrins scout group when I about 10 or 11. Way back then we used to do knots and I do believe I passed my scout badge for knots, and I remember the bowline. There was some thing about a rabbit coming out of his hole, going round the tree, and back down the hole, but when I try this with a bit of string it doesn't work, or at least it doesnt look like the one in the book. Jackie has found a good bit of old string in the shed, it's a slow Sunday morning, and she's trying to tackle a clove hitch, but garden string is not right, what we need is some proper rope. It's been a week since we were looking at boats, and the week has been busy with work, and our yachting adventure has been put on the back burner. So today, to keep up the momentum we decide to take a run out to Coniston to seek out an outward bound shop where we might be able to buy some proper rope so we can practice our knots. It's a grey day with rain forcast for the afternoon, so we take a ride out along the east side of the lake stopping at Waterhead to see if we can spot my friend Malcoms sailboat. I spoke to him early this week and he offered to take us for a sail. I'm expecting something like the boat we looked at last week, but when we find it tied to a tree it turns out to be just a little bigger than a dingy. It does have a mast, but it's not at all like the yachts we have been looking at. No matter, it might turn out to be fun for a day out, but for now we head off for Coniston to buy a yard of rope. In Summitrex we find exactly what we need, a couple of yards of nylon rope, about a quarter of an inch in diameter. Back home we open our RYA book and find that practicing with this is so much easier. We both manage a clove hitch, a reef knot, fiqure of eight and a bowline. Hey another small step towards sailing. Got the wellies, and now the knots, and next weekend we're doing our start sailing course, lets just hope the weather picks up, and calms down a little.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Looking at boats

This weeekend we set up a couple of veiwings of yachts that were for sale on Windermere. One was a 21ft and one was a 26ft. We were thinking that if we could buy ourselves a boat that was some where around the size we would eventually buy in the Dominican Republic then we could get some sailing practice in and take the courses that the RYA do. We are not at all convinced by what we're doing but we've set up these veiwings so we go ahead. The first boat is going to be at the public jettys near to the Windermere Ferry. This yacht looks a bit small, although when we get up close it's not that small but it's pretty basic. In fact we decided that this is a fun sailing boat, one that's fun to sail if your into sport sailing, and has enough room to sort of camp out on but there's no real facilities, just a nice sailing boat. We came away thinking that we didn't see us with that sort of a boat.
Next day, Sunday we're off to meet Pat and Dave who have a Westerley Centaur. This boat looks like a caravan on the water, and we meet them at their mooring at Cunsey woods. Dave takes us out to the boat on his dingy and we climb aboard. Now this is much more like it, at 26ft and with over six foot of head room and with all the gubbins, cooker, sink, head,(toilet in nautical speak).
This feels just what we want, it feels like a big boat, but not too big, and it is not at all flashy, it's the sort of boat we would maybe buy in the Dominican republic. We leave thinking that we've found our boat, but on our way back we chat through our feelings and although it's great we start to think that we're going down the wrong road here. We decide that looking at boats has been a good thing, but that really, we just need to learn how to sail. So do we need a yacht at this moment, and the answer is no, what we need is to do the course and after talking to the instructors re-evaluate and not think of spending 10,000 on a yacht, that can wait till we get to the Caribbean. But it's been an interesting weekend, and I think we've moved our adventure on an inch or two.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Googleing the dream

Now this might be a bit premature as we still haven't been on our start yachting course yet but we've been googleing yachts for sale. We've got no idea what we want, because we know nothing about yachts at all but we've been googleing the dream and bought a collection of help books from the RYA. None of this helps, because theres simply zillions of yachts for sale with descriptions that are so nautically esoteric that we are boggled, but in the end we have a budget and this drastically narrows our criteria. We have found yachts from 1000 pounds to 1,000,000 pounds and we figure we have at best about 10,000 pounds to spend. This seriously narrows our choice as we have gleaned from our research that we need something that is in the 30 odd foot class to sail the worlds oceans. We have realised that out of all the boats for sale you can only go on the vibe from the pictures and what little we understand from the specs.
This is not the way to buy a yacht, we need some expert advice, but there's none availeable so being in the Lake district we decide to take a visit to the Windermere marina, just to see if we can run into somebody, or something that might give us a clue of what we're doing. We park up outside reception, as if we were serious about buying one of the boats sale in the marina.The boats in this Marina are monumental, I mean huge, lots of very serious motor boats, the sort of size that could only be owned by a sultan of Suadi Arabia or Richard Branson. Nesteled in between these are the yachts, big yachts,36ft jobs, all gleeming inspite of the English overcast skies. These are so out of our league, but we skulk back into the sales office and ask if there's anything for under 10,000, a bit embarassingly. They've got a couple of boats we can look at the yard. One is a 23ft job and the other a 32ft, but both are so underwhelming that we come away thinking we can't afford what we need.
So it's back to googleing.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

First mate's response

Take care Captain, your comments on my bespoke wellies have not gone unnoticed. Continue along these lines and you could find yourself walking the plank five miles offshore of the British Virgin Islands.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

We've bought the wellies

Now these are not just any old wellies but wellies designed to be worn by sailors, in fact they're not even called wellies, the box describes them as full length deck boots. They are made from 100% natural rubber with razor cut soles for maximum grip in all weathers, and they are our first purchase on our quest to become sailors. Our goals are, perhaps a little ambitious, but hey what the heck, sailing the caribbean islands aboard your own 36ft sailing cruiser sounds pretty good to us and so we've bought the wellies. Not that we expect to need them once we're plying the exotic waters of the West Indies, but we've booked a two day R.Y.A., start yachting course in Cumbrea on the west coast of Scotland and the letter says you have to bring your own wellies.
Luckily we live just a few miles from Winderemere, and Winderemere is teeming with sailing boats and sailors. To cater for these hoards of sailing types there are marine outfitters, which are a sort of B&Q for people who own boats. So on Saturday morning,August 15th we headed off to Bowness to begin our nautical adventure in search of wellies, or full length deck boots, as we now know they're called. The end of August is getting to the end of their season and there wasn't a huge choice but in the end we plumbed for a matching pair of Gull, blue,grey and cream boots that had a piece of fabric on the top with a laced tie, very fetching, and comfy. Of course when we arrive at Cumbrae and meet with our instructor he's going to think we look a little over dressed in the wellie dept. but hey we're serious about this and so it requires a serious comitment in the wellie stakes, and I believe he'll realise that these two new students are laying down a marker here, I hope he'll be impressed with our commitment, but I'm afraid he might just see us as overdressed in the wellie dept. We paid almost eighty quid for two pairs of wellies, this yachting business is turning out to be expensive, and we've only just begun, but we have got the wellies. When we got back home Jackie decided that the fabric around the top of her pair was a little too tight and unpicked the stitching and took it off making hers look like a rather normal pair of wellies and not the full length deck boot that she'ld bought. Oh well, maybe that sort of customisation will go down well with our seasoned instructor and she'll gain brownie points for practical improvisation and scant regard for the shelving out of 38 quid on a pair of full length deck boots that are now simply expensive wellies