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Friday, 27 December 2013

Rocket science

Picaroon has thrown up quite a few challenges in the five weeks that we've been living aboard, in Salinas bay. We arrived with a plan, which very soon went out of the porthole, whilst we solved one problem after another. First it was dead batteries, then fresh water pumps, then fan belts, the list went on, as we entered the world of being boat owners. Now we know why boats spend 90% of their time in harbour, there's always something vital that needs fixing.
On the up side, as we keep being reminded, it's better that we discover these problems in port rather than out on the open ocean, or some far flung atoll, chance would be a fine thing, and it means we've also had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the inner workings of the good ship Picaroon. Pipes and wires snake beneath the floor hatches, disappearing through holes to some seemingly inaccessible space only reachable by midgets who were also contortionists. Tracing pipes and wires seem to have become a daily quest, to pin down how this or that system works as I slowly unravel the mysteries of Picaroon. Luckily it's only just basic plumbing and electrics, it's not rocket science.
Mind you there's stuff on here that I've got no idea what it does. Take for instance a small blue box that has the title of "Lifeline" printed on it, and a strapline beneath that reads, "the heart of you system". Shielded beneath a Perspex cover, it has a green LED that glows, and lots of wires going to it. There's a couple of holes in the Perspex lid where I'm invited insert a screwdriver and adjust the absorption voltage, and another similar hole that says, adjustment times,  along with a time test point and an error indictor lamp that fortunately is not lit. I've not got a clue what this does, but as it calls itself "Lifeline" I think I should.

There's stuff like this lurking in every nook and cranny, that may, or not be working. Even the workings of the fridge, which isn't working, baffles me, even after reading the workshop manual, I'm at a loss to see why it all looks so complicated, and that's before we get to figure the Garmin chart-plotter that's hooked up to a radar, I think, and depth transducers, all handily displayed on the friendly looking screen in the cockpit, as long as we've got the supplementary, Blue chart g2 Vision data card installed. Sonar, of course is only available with an "S" series unit.

 The thing is we did all our training with old fashioned paper charts, dividers and compasses, but the world moves on.
We've been in touch with the previous owner, via email recently, with questions about Picaroon that we thought she may be able to help us with. Yesterday, we had a reply to one or two of our queries which threw new light on the myriad of esoteric systems aboard. Apparently she was also overwhelmed by so much of the gubbins on Picaroon that used to be owned by her father.

 It turns out that her father was actually a rocket scientist, so that explains it.   

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Playing the money markets

So that's it, BVI yacht sales have received our money for the final settlement of our purchase of Picaroon.
One to four days was what the banks website said and we expected it to take at least four, but no, we hit the send button on Wednesday and on Thursday we had an email saying that they had received our payment in full.

Have you ever sent a shed load of cash across currency zones, it's not without its heart stopping moments. Our money is held in a UK bank account and of course is in sterling, good old fashioned pounds to us and we had to pay the sellers in Dollars.

Now all this finance stuff is way beyond my brain but luckily Mrs W is a bit of a whiz at numbers. She somehow seems to understand stuff like spreadsheets, for instance, which baffle me beyond words, so I leave all this to her, which is how we ended up with an account with World First Bank. Now as far as I can understand they are in the business of moving money around the globe in unimaginable amounts everyday. At the top of their website it tots up the money it has moved about that day. The day we were transferring our money the ticker at the head of the page read something like £15,769,566,201,578,330.164. or some ridiculous  figure that was a bit like how far it is in light years to get to the edge of the known universe.

Somewhere lost in this enormous number is our meager contribution, which is a might disappointing as it's our life savings, which will hardly cause a ripple on the global transactions of the day which I read somewhere amounts to about three trillion dollars a day. Luckily this doesn't have to be counted or carried about by men with big sacks and vans with those blacked out slits for windows, no it's all done by computers talking to other computers, linked to other computers across the globe by fibre optic cables. Satellites whizzing above the planet about a couple of hundred miles up travelling at upwards of 20,000 miles an hour, spewing out data in a mind bogglingly endless race towards the end of the days trading on the money markets.

So here we are after Mrs W has cracked the esoteric codes, checked and rechecked the SWIFT code settings, rechecked and rechecked the three accounts that our funds have to be passed to. First our money will fly off to Wells fargo in New York where it is put on a stage coach, pulled by six white horses and at breakneck speed they get it to a bloke somewhere in a bank called First Caribbean, which I suppose is an ex cruise liner floating somewhere off the Cayman Islands, I suppose they catch a ferry from Miami to do that. Then he gets on a helecopter and takes our sack to Tortola in the BVI. Once they've counted it in the BVI bank the manager will telegraph our broker to say that our payment for that boat Picaroon has finally arrived

Maybe not, not in the 21st century.

The World First website shows us in Real Time what the going rate is for the exchange of one pound for the equivalent in Dollars. This particular day we'll get 1.6075 dollars for a pound, no wait, less than a second has gone by and we can now get 1.6077. A second later and it's 1.5987, and then 1.5998. Wizz wizz wizz go the numbers, up, up, down down all happening at the speed of light, or in this case electricity, I suppose to be wholly accurate. Then its had a sudden slide and it looks as the British  economy is pants but then you realise that the graph is split into 1000ths and that that big slide represents just less than half a cent.

Now all this matters because our funds are locked into the starting stalls of the money market race day. Our mouse hovers over the continue button. Once we click that button we get the exchange rate at that particular nanosecond. It could be the difference of £200 if we click at the wrong moment, so this is serious! After about a half hour of this mesmerising dance of numbers we give up on the idea that the rate will make so little difference in the end and we quit the game and press continue.

Thank you for choosing world First, is the next page displayed. Your money has now been sent to our Russian Mafia boss in Monte Carlo who will try to double it before sending off what remains to the recipient named below.

HAVE A NICE DAY.

Somehow miraculously Karen at BVI emails the next day to say they've received our final payment and they are preparing the final paperwork which will be shipped next week by Fed Ex. A man in a van will call at our apartment in the Dominican Republic with the ownership papers for our yacht.

Funny old world. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Offer accepted on Picaroon

Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!
This was our reaction to the email from Brian at BVI yacht sales at 8-30 yesterday morning which simply read, I think we have a deal.
 Sure enough, there was the signature of the owner right next to ours at the bottom of the PDF of the contract.

We're about to become the owners of a Hardin Sea Wolf, all being well with the survey, and to say that we're excited would be an understatement. Our bid went in just before the weekend, and so we had to endure the whole weekend of anticipation, not really expecting our new bid to succeed, even thinking someone else had made a higher bid, but then we opened our email first thing Monday morning and BAM!!!!. There it was the words, Dear Jackie, "I think we have a deal"

I don't know what's going on here, maybe it's the heat, maybe we've both lost our presence of mind. You see we needed to buy a car for living in the DR and we had decided to look for something small and economical. What did we end up buying, a big six cylinder, 4 wheel drive Nissan Pathfinder which is huge and built like a tank. A good car to be in if your in an accident, said the salesman.

When it came to buying a boat, our first boat we were going to buy something not too big, maybe 34-36ft easy to handle for a couple of small and aging sailors. What did we end up buying, a 41ft ketch with an extra six foot log sticking out the front. The bowsprit.

So this is it, we're just a stones throw now from owning this beautiful old girl, who goes by the name of "Picaroon" which according to wikipedia means pirate boat, we've got ourselves a pirate ship, we've gone and bought Captain Ron's boat, albeit in rather better shape than the one in Captain Ron.

Next week we'll go back to Puerto Rico where she will be hauled out and surveyed in Fajardo. The broker, Brian, in the BVI will arrange all this as it's a two day sail to bring her round from Salinas and a two day sail back to Salinas. Were rather hoping that we can do the return sail to Salinas which would serve as the sea trial that we need to do. It would also help us to get familiar with the workings of a ketch rig which we have never yet sailed. Of course we will have an experienced crew for this which we can learn from, so that would be the best plan. Then we berth her back in Salinas Bay, complete the paperwork, pay the money and she will be ours.

We've come along way from my very first entry in sailblogs, "So we've bought the wellies" from novices to navigators, from our start yachting course to our dayskipper practical in force nine gales in Scotland. The dream we dared to dream all those years ago has finally come to a pass.

Once she's ours, we'll need to bring her back to the Dominican Republic, and probably to Luperon, but before doing this we're going to have to sail her somewhere that is not too challanging. Somewhere close by where we can figure out all the sheets, sailplans, instrumentation, how to anchor safely and how to get in and out of marinas without spiking a million dollar yacht on the end of the bowsprit.

Where might that be you may ask, well just a couple of days sail from Salinas is, yes you guessed it, The BVI - got there in the end.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Head, Heart & Intuition

There's a saying, don't let your heart rule your head, and another that says, trust your intuition. Both of these we have applied to great extent when deciding which boat we will eventually buy. As you know, if you've been following this blog, we've been researching, viewing and sailing lots of different boats over the last five or six years. All this ground work has of course been worthwhile so that we don't jump in and make the wrong choice. After all this is probably the first and last boat we ever buy so we don't want to make rash or wrong decisions.
When we were newcomers and a bit green behind the gills with all things boaty, we were attracted to boats built in the far east, the Cheoy Lee, Formosa, Tayana, Hans Christian and a few other makes I can't quite recall. These boats looked, to our naïve eyes, all that a boat should be; a romantic vision, a symphony of craftsmanship, with carvings, bowsprits and figureheads that would plough the oceans in search of adventures. These were the boats that we dreamed of owning one day, but the more we researched we began to understand that, as pretty as these vessels were, they were more than likely to be costly to maintain, and wouldn't sail as well as more modern designs.  So we stopped looking at these romantic visions of sailboats, and started to listen to our heads rather than our hearts.
The search for our perfect boat, one that didn't have all that bright work,  a nice looking plastic, easy to maintain yacht eventually led us last year to the C&C landfall. With its spacious galley, big heads and sleek lines, she  looked the ideal boat. We found her languishing, unloved in Luperon,  and promptly put in an offer. Suffice to say we didn't buy "Seagulls", you'll know why if you've been following this blog, or scroll back, if you've a mind too.
So after heeding all the advice, taking into account all of our five years of painstaking research we have fallen head over heels,..... not a good idea on a sailboat,..... in love with a bloody Formosa, and a little less so with a Tayana 37 and we've put offers in on both boats. We have stopped listening to our heads, employed our intuition and soon, we hope, will be the owners of one of either of these boats.
However, the excitement of last week, when were went aboard these two boats in Salinas has turned to frustration, no not frustration, perhaps suspended anticipation as we wait for a response from the agents/owners. You see,  it's not just a question of emailing them an offer price, we have had to download official forms/contracts, print out, fill in the blanks, scan and email back. They then send these same forms to the owners who then have to fill in their response, mail back before we can know if our offer has been successful, or not .
Every morning we open our mail in anticipation, only to be disappointed, and so we're still waiting. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, it's like being a kid waiting for Christmas, it seems like it's been forever, although it's only been a few days.
We posted a question on a website called cruisers forum where yachties give each other advice. Should we buy the Tayana or the Hardin sea wolf? As to be expected we've had plusses and minuses from sailors who have responded, it hasn't made things any clearer, just muddied the waters. Our  Intuition says, Tayana 37, heart says Sea Wolf, and head says neither, but I'm in no mood to listen to my head, I just want Christmas day to come so I can open my presents.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Preamble to the Puerto Rico adventure

Due to violent storms in the Dominican Republic we have not been able to post on the internet for three days so the following  blog is a bit late in arriving.

It is a long tale of our trip to look at a couple of boats in Puerto Rico and so I have posted it in three separate postings but they should read as one.

There's a lot to read, but it needed telling like this.

Mission impossible/Puerto Rico

Google maps are brilliant, but like the way that travel brochures, filled with pictures of exotic beaches, don't show you the bugs and mosquitoes, google maps don't show unhelpful desk clerks and customs officers.

We had our travel plans and schedule for our trip to Puerto Rico worked out in meticulous detail. Jackie had done her homework and although the timing was always going to be tight we had enough wriggle room to get from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, see a couple of boats in Salinas, and back in twenty four hours.

We took the luxury Metro bus, that has such good air con that it's best to pack a fleece for the four hour ride to Santo Domingo and arrived at 3pm.
The ferry wasn't due to sail until eight so we had plenty of time to sort out our tickets which we had reserved online with the agent in Santa Domingo, all we had to do was find the office. We thought there could be a hiccup here as we hadn't received the confirmation email their website promised.

One important detail we had missed when we decided to travel on the Tuesday night ferry was that that particular Tuesday was a holiday in the Dominican Republic. Of course that wouldn't affect the travel agents office, would it? WRONG. We had no trouble finding the office but the steel bars on the doors were closed with a big padlock. We headed for the port, on foot, only to find after a very hot fifteen minute walk through the Zona Colonial that we had been going in completely the wrong direction. We decided we were perhaps better off in a taxi. The said "taxi" should have been in the scrap yard a couple of years ago, but as our driver had been recommended by the nice policeman we had asked for directions we jumped in and found ourselves at the ferry port within ten minutes. It was now about 4pm.

The office was open for business; probably the only thing open in the whole of Santo Domingo, so we stepped inside, to buy our ticket to ride. The charming girl on the desk took our passports and started to process our booking. "Esta" she asks, " Do you have the ESTA"?
Our grasp of Spanish is not very good but we gather that what she is asking for is our travel visa to enter Puerto Rico, which we are expecting to get when we arrive. It turns out that we can't travel without having this document but we can go online and fill out the form, pay 40 dollars and then she can book us on board. Oh good, that sounds easy then, so can we do that here? "No es no possible" All we need to do is to go back into the centre and use one of the many internet cafes, but of course as it's a holiday today there's none that are open. OK, so we need to get into enterprise mode here. We need a computer to go online and a printer in a city we don't know, where everything is closed and we need to get this before 6pm and it's about 4.30.
We decide that a hotel may be the way forward and take a taxi to be eventually dropped at the very very posh  Inter-continental on the Malacon. The reception guy speaks English and is able to help.
Bingo!!!! They have a pc and a printer we can use. We find the "ESTA" site and fill in the form, pay online, email the pdf to the hotel desk because the printer for this pc is broken. The reception staff print out our Visa and call us a taxi and don't even charge us, "muy amable" (very kind) our taxi speeds us back to the ferry port.
The office is still open and we present our ESTA to the charming lady who needs to check through everything very slowly. There's a deadline for boarding, and it's fast approaching. We present ourselves at the customs desk with tickets and 100 bits of paper. A very puzzled officer has to call another officer and then another as he can't make his computer accept our documents. Five minutes to the deadline and we're through into the embarkation hall. Another official takes our documents and we're ushered into a room to be confronted by that woman in the James Bond movie, you know the one with the spikes that flick out of her shoes, who is very sceptical about our intended 24 hour visit to this outflung corner of the US of A.
Two minutes to go!!
So you're visiting a friend, you travel all this way to spend one hour with a friend whose second name you don't know, mmmmmm.  Eventually she smiles, and says
"Have a good trip" and we are hustled to the gangway that is in darkness, Jackie bangs her wrist, which will swell to a big bump as we finally stumble into the entrance hall of the Caribbean Fantasy and the steel doors clang shut behind us.

"Welcome aboard, here is the key to your cabin, bon voyage".  

Caribbean fantasy and a sea wolf..........

The ferry which I suppose could accommodate a couple of thousand people had only eighty passengers.  In the bar a lone girl singer belted out Spanish Karaoke to a crowd of two, whilst upstairs in the lounge a five piece latino band played to no-one at all. We spent the evening away from all this on the open deck, with a bottle of wine, well two actually. The ferry finally set sail at 10pm and we went to bed.

At 6am the next morning we stood on the deck of the Caribbean fantasy;  they must have been on the rum when they came up with the name. It's just a huge car ferry, with 3 casino tables, lots of fruit machines, and massage parlour. Jackie had packed her cosi, but the swimming pool was somewhat of a disappointment, no bigger than a jacuzi, empty and decorated with  beer bottles. It was, let us be kind, somewhat  uninviting.  The fantasy belched diesel fumes into a vermillion sky and we watched the sun rise behind the silhouette of Puerto Rico.
We docked at 8am, on schedule and waited in line at immigration. The line moved painfully slowly but by nine o'clock it was our turn. We handed the immigration officer our documents, had our finger and thumb prints scanned, and were photographed by a mini camera. He just needed to check one small thing and ushered us into an adjoining glass room, offered us a seat and said this will only take a couple of minutes. The door automatically locked as he left the room.

 The couple of minutes turned into three quarters of an hour as he returned to his watchtower to grill the rest of the passengers. Homeland security wasn't rushing and our tight schedule was being squeezed. Eventually we were waved through and we took a taxi to a car hire company we had found on the net, that sat right on the P2, the road we needed to get to Salinas, which we reckoned would take about an hour and a half, although the taxi driver told us it would take three hours. We hoped he was wrong.
We had planned to reach Salinas by midday, see these two boats, drive back to Mayaguez and catch the same ferry back to DR at 8pm, tight but do-able.

All didn't go smoothly at the car rental office though. They couldn't process our rental with my debit card, but luckily Jackie had a credit card which would do the trick. So the nice lady, Stevie, at Enterprise started the processing again.  "Can I see your license?" and Jackie handed over her license. "I'm sorry" she said this license has expired in March 2013. Oh no! Now what?!  Well they juggled things a bit and somehow managed to satisfy their systems that we were good people of honest intent and we finally set off in our little red Honda to our rendezvous in Salinas with Jean, pronounced John.

It was about 10.30am and we were at least an hour adrift from our plan. On top of all of this we were going to have our schedule squeezed some more. The car hire office closed at 5pm and we had to be back on board the Caribbean Fantasy by 6pm at the latest.

Of course, one small detail we had overlooked was that in America, and in American colonies, like Puerto Rico there is a speed limit of 55mph. We didn't have a map, all we knew was that Salinas was just off this highway called P2, so if we stay on this road which we had seen on google maps, that became the P52 around a town called Ponce we would be fine. That was until we called Jean to get directions.

Turn off at La Isabella and call me, he said, which we did and pulled into a Shell garage, to get some bottles of water, and call Jean, on a bad line and his Spanglish accent. The check-out man in the garage told me that Salinas was the next turn on the right along the highway we had just turned off, great almost there, it's about midday, and almost back on schedule.
Jeans' directions seem to contradict the guy in the petrol station, but we go with his, thinking maybe the boat isn't exactly in Salinas we go under the main highway, get lost in a town we know is wrong, turn round looking for a left, or was it a right turn he said. Miss the turning altogether, take a wrong turn onto the slip-road to the highway going the wrong way and locked into a shouting match that is de rigueur for all married couples driving to places they don't know, without a map in a foreign land with tight deadlines to meet. Now we're heading down this motorway in silence looking for the opportunity to turn around but there are no exits for what seems like miles and miles and we're running late. The guy at the Shell garage said that there were no signs for Salinas, Jean said something about 65, and right in front of us is a big sign that says SALINAS, 65. Well what about that, we found it by mistake, call jean who talks us through the middle of town, on a mobile that keeps dropping out and arrive very hot and desperately in need of a cigarette, the car is a no smoking car.

It's about half twelve by now, and in the scorching heat of a the day we step into Jeans RIB for the short ride across this beautiful bay to where the Hardin sea wolf is moored about half a mile offshore.

We climb aboard and fall in love.

She could do with a little TLC but she is beautiful with her two highly varnished wooden masts gracing a cloud dappled blue Caribbean sky.    

continued...........

After  viewing the Sea wolf Jean drops us back at the Marina, where we've arranged to have a look at a Tayana 37. This will be our first opportunity to get on board the yacht that has been pinned to our wall in England for the last five years. We find Jane aboard, she's in her 80s', her husband isn't there and she wasn't expecting us till mid-afternoon. The boats in such a mess, she says,  we say we'll grab a bite to eat and come back in a while and not to worry. We get back about an hour later and her husband Dick is now back and they invite us on board. This is a beautiful boat, a boat they took delivery of,new, in 1984 and are now having to sell as their sail buy time has come.

This has been their home for 20 years, and it has that feel about it. They have lovingly looked after their boat and it shows. If we had the money to buy her, then I'm sure we would but at $65000 she is beyond our budget. We just had to get on board one of these fine vessels though to see if what we had dreamt about all these years was true, that this would be our dream boat, the ideal size for us, and one that would sail anywhere and we could feel good about.
Jane and Dick are a lovely couple and they chatted away freely extoling the beauty of their baby. And suddenly it was 3.30pm, and we had to get back on the road if we were going to make it back to the car rental office by closing time of 5pm.

The drive back was tense with the clock ticking down the minutes and a distinct lack of signs telling us how far we still had to go to Mayaguez. "Was that 55 miles to go or 55km" I said. The speed limit signs said 55mph so are the signs in miles or km. I start to ignore the speed limit and stay glued to a van that's dodging in and out of lanes heading in our direction keeping a sharp eye out for police. It's all 110% concentration but as ten to five ticks by we hit the outskirts of Mayaguez and phone the office to tell them where we are. It's rush hour in the city and we begin to crawl, it's five to five.
We pull into the Enterprise yard with two minutes to spare, and the heavens open.

We made it!

A taxi arrives to take us back to the Caribbean Fantasy waiting at the ferry port where we check in and get on board, dump our stuff and have a shower. Then it's out on deck for cold Presidente and a cigarette.

We stay there watching the sun setting over Puerto Rico, and polish off a couple of bottles of wine. We talk endlessly about those two boats, and buy both of them, before falling into our bunks at about half nine.

We rise at about 5.30 and watch the dawn break as we glide towards Santo Domingo with even less people on board than the outward voyage. Mind you this passenger list has a bit more cinematic qualities about it. We've got a chapter of Hells angels and an order of nuns aboard. The Nuns are all kitted out in white from head to toe. Two are on deck for sunrise and one of the Hells angels is there to bring them a couple of chairs for them to sit in, I thought that was a quaint juxtaposing of angels.

We anticipated all sorts of difficult issues arising when we hit customs at Santo Domingo but we glide through with just lots of bienvenidos, have a nice stay, and we're back where we started 24 hours ago.
Back on the Metro luxury bus and by 4pm we're home at Orilla Del Mar.

That was some adventure.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Enough of the trumpets

Enough of the trumpets, Jackie said.
It’s been one of those sort of weeks, our very last week at Ford Park where we’ve both toiled  for over ten years. I don’t say worked because it has never been a job in the sense of the word,  it’s been more of a mission. We were both recruited shortly after the trust was set up to save and develop this almost derelict country estate on the edge of town. Back then it was an overgrown gone to seed space, home to teenage drinkers and druggies. With a down at heal boarded up  grade 2 listed country house, an adjoining boarded up coach house, and the remnants of a walled Victorian kitchen garden, oh and the playing fields.
Now it has been transformed into a beautiful open space with a natural playground, the fields planted out with tens of thousands of spring flowers,  an avenue of lime trees, countless new oak, silver birch and beach trees with an Atlantic cedar right in the middle.
The Coach house  is a thriving five star café with new offices, a community room with a roof terrace with stunning views  across Morcambe bay , and behind it the majestic Sir John Barrow monument three hundred feet above us  on top of Hoad hill. Of course we can’t pay claim to Morcambe bay and Hoad hill, they’ve both been there for a million years or more, but we seem to have made a difference to Ford Park.
We didn’t achieve all of this single handed, but I suppose we did become the captain and first mate who, with the help of countless shipmates steered our ship through some mountainous storms, caught the fair winds, and prevailed when we languished in the doldrums.
Many faces of the crew aboard the good ship Fordusparkus have come and gone over the years, some have perished on the voyage, others moved on. I’m talking here of the trustees, the members, or friends, and above all the volunteers.,
All of us have together have transformed this tiny corner of the world and left a lasting legacy for our adopted town of Ulverston, and this week in particular has been filled, for us with a constant stream of verbal accolades from so many acquaintances, some who have become close friends, others we hardly know.
It’s a very humbling experience, to know how much all this toiling away  has touched so many lives, and each and everyone wants to heap praise and tell us how it was all down to us. To my mind it was all down to the skipper,  Jackie, I was simply carrying out orders, but in the eyes of the crew and the supporters we achieved something special, and I suppose we did,
Leaving any port you’ve grown fond of is always going to be an emotional wrench, and so it is a hundred fold with this departure. Our sights are now set on new horizons and we just want to hoist our sails and slip quietly out on the rising tide. The goodbyes are just too overwhelming, as  I suppose is befitting after such a tempestuous voyage of over a decade, but we leave not with a heavy  heart but with the satisfaction of knowing we made a difference.
But enough of the trumpets already.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hearts of Oak sails the bay back home

The days when it's perfect weather for sailing come around far too seldom around here. What with the way the tide rushes out of the bay leaving countless miles of mud flats so that the times of the high tide are crucial. Then you need some wind, not a howling gale, and not a fickle zephyr , and it's a bonus if it's not raining on the days you can go down to the sea again.
Today the sun was shining with high cirrus and a force 3-4 coming in from the NW. High tide was at 1630, and today the crew of six aboard Hearts of Oak were about to attempt to sail her back to her birthplace of 100 years ago. She was the last boat to be built in Ulverston  and today she was going home. We set off from Roa island at 0930 with the plan to arrive on the flood tide at canal foot at about 1600 hrs.
Its about fifteen miles from our starting point to our final destination but fraught with the unknown of the Morcambe bay sands which due to the shifting sands and channels are seldom navigated and impossible to chart.  Our skipper for the day is Tony who lives at canal foot and has figured out that we should have clearance as long as we arrive on the top of the flood at 4pm.
Back when Hearts of Oak was built mariners would regularly do this trip we were about to undertake but today hardly anyone attempts it. It's more than likely you'll end up on a sandbank, stuck waiting for the next high tide to lift you off, and today is not a particularly high tide so the adventure is tinged with more than just a hint of trepidation.
We have to head out into the bay and find the main shipping lane that comes out of Heysham, a busy ferry port on the Lancashire side of the bay which has deep water at all times of the tide.  Then when the tide starts running we will catch the flood and sail it all the way to Canal foot, Ulverston.
It takes about two hours to tack out to lightening knoll before we turn north and ride the tide surging at four knots into the bay. The wind has picked up and is on the beam as we start our approach towards the distant mountains at the head of the bay. We're flying along touching  9 knots with the rising tide and this fresh NW wind and all the time keeping a watchful eye on our newly fitted depth gauge. It reads off erratic changes in depth, sometimes ten feet, the next minute out of range. The sailing is exhilarating, the views stunning, but were running too fast. We need to slow down and wait for the tide otherwise we'll arrive without enough water under our keel at our destination.
Our skipper decides we should drop the main, which we attempt to do but the gaff gets stuck, staysail and jib flap violently, and the gaff refuses to drop. There's a rope flying loose, time to drop all sails.  Eventually after a few moments of panic everything returns to calm as we drop all sails and regroup under engine power. We throw out the anchor and sit waiting for the tide to put another few feet under our keel. The run of the tide is fierce but the big anchor seem to hold in the Morcambe bay mud, we've got four feet under us that soon becomes five. We lunch, Brian washes the sides and Skipper Tony enters the log.
With an hour till high tide we weigh anchor and gingerly cruise past Chapel Island, heading for the quay at Canal foot. The depth gauge reads one foot, then we bump the bottom but glide on. At 1600 hrs we glide into the calm waters of Canal foot and drop anchor. Hearts of oak is home once again and the crew breathe a sigh of relief.
In the olden days they would have done all that under sail. Today we have to exercise a bit more caution. The adventure ends on the beach with Jennifer, the prime mover, but no sailor, in the restoration on Hearts of Oak plying us with strawberry scones and cups of tea ashore
 A splendid voyage, and one that made us appreciate how difficult it must have been for those sailors of long ago navigating these treacherous sands day in and day out with just a man and boy and no engine to turn to.
She'll stay here a week and then next weekend we'll catch the falling tide and take her back to Roa island, now that could be even more fun than todays outing.

Friday, 28 June 2013

The written word

The cottage is packed with books, books collected over years, perhaps. Have they all been read or are they just books bought in antiquarian bookshops that would look good on the shelves. The scary thing is that I have a feeling that they have all been read. Our friends are academics, much more cultured than I could ever hope to be. The books are categorised into their own corners of culture. In the front room there are three separate sets of shelves,  one has a library of books on cricket and above this shelf, poets and poetry, the complete works of Robert Frost.  The only thing I know about Robert Frost is a mention of him in a Simon and Garfunkel song called the “Dangling conversation” on Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme. I remember thinking way back in 67 that I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to American poets, but it wasn’t until now, in 2013 that I’ve ever seen a book of his poems, and even now I’ve only glanced the spline of the collected works on the bookshelf.
On another bookcase there are books about music, books about Wagner and Mozart, and many other composers that I’m sure I should have read, but haven’t.  There is another bookshelf in the same room about wildlife and nature, birds plants, travels in the Gobi  Desert . The next bookshelf has classic literature like Homers Iliad. I took this one off the shelf thinking I should check this out as it’s supposed to be famous. It’s an antique copy from perhaps the 1920’s and browsed the first page, the instructions to the reader. Now the first thing that put me off was that it was printed in a font that was about four point. By the end of the first page I was at a loss to tell you what I had read. I turned to the first verse of     Homers rantings and gave up after the first few lines, and put it back on the shelf. The idea of being cultured was fast retreating from my 21st century mind. Have our friends actually read all this stuff, is this what you have to plough through to be cultured and informed. To me it was just hard work and so I put it back on the shelf.
Upstairs in the back bedroom is a bookshelf full of science fiction, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, and a few other authors I should have read. I haven’t. Another bookcase, this one full of stuff about Naval history, or at least novels about Naval histories.  I should read these, there just may be some insights that I can use when we get round to buying our boat and exploring the Caribbean, but I very much doubt I’ll get round to it.
In fact I don’t suppose I’ll get round to reading any of this library before we go. I tried the Woody Guthrie, “Bound for Glory” tonight but I’m finding it hard going. I really think I should know much more about the guy that inspired Bob Dylan but I don’t think I’ll get much further with it. I know I should, but I know I won’t.  But I keep dipping into this archive, this collection of culture that I missed, that I should have paid attention too in my last sixty five years, but I was distracted by rock n roll, cannabis and the Apprentice. Perhaps I would now be a wiser and more rounded individual, had I been exposed to this literature. Or maybe not.

After all, each of these books is simply an adventure that some individual or other has been on, in their time. The truth is that we all have our own adventures. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bending on the mains'l on Hearts of oak

Summer has finally arrived in Cumbria, in fact we've had almost one week of glorious weather and we are making the final preparations to leave. We have walked the lanes where the cow parsley is in profusion and the fields are abundant with buttercups. The blackthorn is awash with it's snow-white blossoms and everything is lush in this late rush of spring, a month late. In fact in these glory days as we trip the light fantastic at 7am across the fields, buy eggs from the local farm, and pop £2 in the honesty box we wonder why we should be leaving such a beautiful part of the world.

Of course it's not always this idyllic, bird song, and the lazy cattle, in the early warmth of the morning. More often than not it's grey, or its raining, or its windy and uninspiring, but this week you wonder, just for a moment if Englands such a bad place. Of course it's not, especially on weeks like these but we have charted our course, let go the quay and are ready to sail away.

In fact we're almost done with casting off the trappings of this life, we're almost there with the sifting of the stuff that we will leave behind, give away or take with us and we went sailing.

We went sailing on Hearts of Oak. Well not exactly sailing. There was a job to be done, a shakedown cruise. After a winter, a long winter of refurbishments it was time to bend the mainsail, thats a nautical way of saying putting the sails back on to the old girl. This was carried out with a degree of pondering and hilarity as we wrestled with bits of rope and canvas until finally we had something that resembled a gaff rigged cutter called Hearts of oak.

Luckily there was the barest whisper of a breeze and a flat calm sea to achieve this. Gordon seemed to know more or less how the bits of rope and canvas got tied to the gaff and mast and we just threw in the odd comment to confuse each other but eventually she started to look like the ship we remembered from last season. We then motored out into the bay for an hour or two looking for a vesper and managed to turn the engine off for about ten minutes before we agreed that there was really no wind.

It didn't matter though, it was good to be back on the briney. The sun shone on a beautiful June sunday and we sailed her back to the drying out mooring, picked up the mooring and rowed ashore.

For a few hours we forgot about moving, about work, about anything except sailing. That's why we want to do this, wind or no wind, just being a part of this classic old sailboats crew with the creaks of the rigging as she wallows in the swell is enough, enough to escape the world for a few hours.

Next weekend we move out and take up residence in a cottage in the countryside with views of the mountains and the Duddon estuary. It won't be our home, but if the weather stays like this it's going to be a joy, and just one step away from the plane ride to our  new life in the Caribbean and our sailing adventure. But today on the Hearts of Oak was beautiful, not a sailing day but a reminder of why we are doing what we are doing, sailing is such a meditation, and if we can sail something like this old boat with its old systems of stiff hessian sheets and halyards and then it gives us confidence in our adventures on something a little less old.

So here we go then the last week, it's getting very close now, the next few weeks will surely fly. And then we fly.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Completo

COMPLETO.

About three pm today I got a call from our solicitors to tell us that they have finally exchanged contracts on the sale of our house in Sun St. We won't be moving this weekend but next, the 17th.
That's the day we hand over the keys to what has been our house for the last 13 years. The tiny Larch that we planted in our back yard of a garden back in 2000, and should have grown to 15ft is now mature and more like forty foot high. The bloke at the garden centre told us a little fib there, but we have loved watching it soar into the sky marking our time here. It's the only tree in the street, except a squat magnolia that is next door. The postage stamp that is our garden is abundant with bluebells, that are just going over now, and the weather has turned to summer at last. The drystone wall that divides our domain from next door with it's collection of mini ferns that are drying out in this dry spell. Our next door neighbors have just recently moved to another part of town, neighbors for the last 13 years, gone, and soon we too will be gone. Everything changes, and it feels good, exciting, and the butterflies are swirling around. Is this the right thing, no turning back now. That plan that we cooked up about five years ago is about to happen and all we can do is hang on to that tigers tale and go with it. Committed,
The last time I did this was when I was thirty years old, but then it was a rented flat in London to go travelling to South America, Equador, Peru, Muchu Pitchu. And when I came back I thought that we would be soon on the road, that open road, where adventures were the only way. No more humdrum life for me.
And thirty five years slipped by. Families, divorce, new life away from London and eventually, meeting Jackie .
We made a great team, we made a difference to our little town that we adopted. We immersed ourselves in the " community" and bit by bit became famous. We didn't set out to be, it just happened that we did what we did and eventually we became the face of our adopted enterprise, the saving of Ford park.
We took over the reigns gifted to us, and turned a derelict nine acre waste land into a beautiful park for Ulverston. A legacy that we will be proud to leave behind. They all say they will miss us, and we will miss them, but adventures beckon. We are about to take that leap of faith, to venture into an unknown future in the Dominican Republic,and a sailboat, me at 65, jackie almost 60. Is that foolish, not at all. Now is our time to grasp the last of the summer wine, to boldly go, to spread our wings and feel the spirit of adventure.

This house is not our home,although it has been,  home is wherever the wind takes us, wherever we drop anchor in the next few years. This is a new chapter, new horizons, dangerous, unknown waters, and uncertain futures.

But one thing is for certain, we are now committed, no turning back, Contracts have been exchanged, we no longer own 45 Sun street and the Caribbean is our next port of call. It's all so scary, but at the same time so liberating.

Looks like August  will see us on our way, after we tie up the loose ends in England.

Can't wait, can't wait.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

You can't change your life and be sensible at the same time

Just a quick entry.
This is our penultimate week in our house at 45 Sun Street, we will be leaving on the 7th of June. Looks like we will complete the sale this week or at least early next week. On top of this my brother has almost completed the paper work on buying my half of the bungalow. So after all this time it looks like everything will happen at the same time, that is the sale of our properties, giving us the funds we need to move and to seriously think about boat shopping.
And then we came across a boat we like the look of. She's a Young Sun 35 cutter rigged sloop, 1981 vintage, that is in Grenada. And it's going for a bargain price, well by the looks of it. It's owned by an Englishman who wants a quick sale.
We emailed him for more photos, and yesterday we had the survey through. It needs a little work, but mostly cosmetic. We really like the look of this boat, it's a bit salty, traditional build, a heavy boat that is supposed to be seakindly. We're talking to the owner and are on the verge of saying yes, but of course we will need to see her first, but shes 10 hours flying distance away. That's a long way to go to find out that we don't like her, and a lot of money in fares and hotels.
We could just take the plunge and buy her without stepping on board but that would be very foolish, or would it?
So it looks like all our planning may fall together, fall into that one moment that fate has laid before us. The money, the boat,the shedding of our ties to this old life.
Tomorrow we have booked a Skype call with the owner of Sequin, and tomorrow we could have completed on the sale of two houses. This is very very weird, or is it fate.
The other day whilst clearing out my old journals and song books I came across a saying I thought very apt for the moment we're in.
You can't change your life and be sensible at the same time.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Leaving yourself behind

Cupboards and drawers are slowly getting emptied, some stuff going to charity shops, some to car boot sales, lots of it going to the recycling centre. This is the detritus of a life lived in one house for the last twelve years, and a myriad of other stuff that has been hauled around for the last 50 years or more. When your about to decant half way across the world to a different climate, and a new life you have to be ruthless.

 This is a very therapeutic feeling, but it also takes you back on a journey through your life. The minutia, the ornaments, the nick nacks not seen for years evoke that time when this thing was important enough  to hang onto. The albums, vynal   records that have sat on the shelf for over   all those years that you have been unable to play for at least the last fifteen, cause you haven't got a deck anymore. And anyway you've moved on and got older and your tastes have changed. And popular music is of the now, deep and meaningful songs of yesteryear drag me back, but are some how lost and locked in their own time zone, and they have sat on that shelf for so long, unplayed, and a testament to who you were and what you became.

I have promised myself that I will find a deck and convert them all to MP3s and log them on my ipod, but I don't because its such a long and laborious process, so I'm going to let them go, set them free and take them to a charity shop. Sgt Pepper, Dark side of the Moon, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Muswell hillbillys, Love over Gold, Bringing it all back home, the list goes on, Bookends.

It won't fit on the boat, if it wont fit on the boat it has to go, and it feels good. To discard the trappings of who you are, the bits of ephemeral stuff that defines you, or think defines you has to go, has to be left behind as you move on into another life. The same life, of course, you only get one, after all, and shedding is so good, but at the same time scary

The one thing that I have a problem with though are my song books, the books that I have been keeping that contain the ramblings of a songwriter since 1970s'. I've got about twenty books that contain songs I've written, the majority, awful along with journals of my wanderings through this world,this life, this existence. Some day to day when I was prolific,some documenting my adventures, some mundane,some profound, but mostly just plain boring, but perhaps my grand kids may discover them and have an insight into who they had as a Granddad.

 A granddad, how did that happen, comes to us all. So these jottings, these slices of my life are the hardest things to discard. Jackies daughter says that she will look after them, she seems to see a value in them so thats where they will probably go to, but it's a big ask to expect her to haul them around with her throughout her wanderings. All I know is that they can't accompany us on our new journey into sailing land. So I have to let them go, as precious as they are to who I am.

And then there's this town that we have been so much apart of  for almost twenty years. Movers and shakers, known to so many, as we trace our way through all the connections that we both have made. We have touched so many lives in our quest to just do something, to make something happen, sucked into the fabric of this tiny corner of the world, just trying to make a difference.

 We will miss that, I know we will because Ulverston in Cunbria, England has sustained us, has given us a purpose, has given us friends.and a family that we are about to leave behind to find our new adventures on the high seas. The islands of the Caribbean beckon, the uncertainty of what we will become, of what we have chosen as our swan song.
 The leap into the unknown, the shedding of the trappings of what we were, to what we may be. It's so exciting to be stepping out into the unknown, but at the same time very very scary, but with the shedding of all this detritus so liberating and if it won't fit on the boat it has to go. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Offer on our house yeeeeeeh

It took a long time, in fact its been almost a year since we put 45 on the market, but today we finally had someone make us an offer. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. After about 30 odd viewings at last it looks like we may be able to start making plans again, Somebody wants our nice little house. And whats more,  it looks like we'll get closer than we thought to our selling price, which in this market we were beginning to doubt.
In fact you start to doubt in lots of little ways. Why did the brochure say individual, does that mean it's a bit hippy, maybe all the pictures, painted mostly by me are putting people off.
And to be quite honest we never paid much attention to having swish furniture or bothered too much about the carpets. Except the stair carpet. We replaced that a couple of years ago with a nice pale cream one that was, well cheap. It was an easy mistake to make, but now it's a bit grubby and the pile has collapsed so although it spruced up the staircase when new now it looks tatty. So that;'s another thing to be paranoid about.
Then on top of this it hasn't got central heating, or double glazing. My God how can people live like this, they say, they must be so poor. Well no we just enjoy fresh air, and we sleep under duvets, big fat duvets in the winter. And it doesn't hurt to put on a jumper.
But all that aside, the most annoying bit of the whole process is having to hoover and tidy up. You have to make the place look un-lived in, a very un-natural state of being, well it is for us. I want stuff around where I can reach out and not have to rumage in the back of the glory hole.
But all that aside, hey we may, MAY, have sold our house. In a way this is a bit premature, I only had a telephone talk with the estate agent, but she did say they were cash buyers, so no chain. They also upped their offer, only by £1500, so they must be keen. Tomorrow I think they go into the office to make a formal offer, on paper I suppose. So maybe a premature but again YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeHHHHHHHH.
So our dream of escaping to sail the Caribbean, and live in the Republic Dominicana came a leap closer tonight.
Oh, while I've been typing this I've been listening to our new albums' rough mixes. That's The Beat Combo, the vehicle for my and Ewans original tunes, with Juliet on drums. I must say it's sounds so good, in fact it makes me a bit scared about doing the final mixes. Will we be able to get back to the same urgency that happens in the rough mix. Right now I've got Ewans' gasoline on, the old punk one, and you know what  it's so good, so out of context with the rest of the album. But hell it's sounding so good.

House sale and a new album almost both due to complete at the same time, now that would be something, as Paul Mcartney might sing. 



Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Nada Nothings moving but the leaves on the trees


I just looked at my profile, I wanted to change my email address, and I see that in my biog I said that I was almost sixty. Well in a couple of weeks time I'm going to be 65, SIXTY FIVE!!!!!!!! That means we've been at this Novices to Navigator thing for over four years. Too long, not long enough and we still don't have a boat and we're still here. What happened.

Well what happened was that the bankers ran off with all the money, the world plunged into financial meltdown and the idea of cashing in our inheritance took a big knock as the house prices plunged. It became a buyers market and we're selling, wrong end.

We almost had a sale towards the end of last year, then it fell through because mortgages are as rare as hens teeth, and the bankers don't want to lend any of their dosh to nobody.

So here we are now well into the fifth year of our plan and still no nearer to making it happen. What makes it worst is that last year we told everybody, well everybody at work that we would be leaving. So at least two or three times a week someone comes up yo us and says something like " I thought you said you were going sailing" well so did we.

We've handed in our notice in, well sort of, we've told the trustees that as soon as we sell our house we'll be gone in three months. And that seems Ok with them, but we've sort of already gone. We can't get enthused by future projects, and we're in this dreadful limbo land.

We've dropped the price for both our house and the inherited one and people come to view but they all seem to say there's too much work to do. Seems every prospective buyer wants to move into a show house, and although these two houses are perfectly livable they do need cosmetic work, and ours needs central heating and double glazing. Seems that no-one can live without central heating. We've never wanted it, we live with the windows open, we like fresh air.

I think we're moving towards a sort of depression, not real depression but the surface type, where you start to think that someones trying to tell us something. You had a bad idea and all this delay is trying to steer us away from that dream we had way back almost five years ago. Take stock, have a big think, this is a sign.

There's got to be a chink, a change, an offer, even a low one that we can reject, anything would be better that this nothing. We even put a silly offer in for this C&C38 that needs oodles of work doing on it and you know what, we haven't even had a reply to our email. Five days since we sent it, nothing, nada. Even a polite reply to say I'm sorry that was a joke offer, please don't insult me would have been good, but nothing at all.

So we tread lightly from day to day, hanging on to that estate agents call,text only to be disappointed when it comes in negative, another no sorry, there was too much work to do.

Now I know there's so many tragedies happening here and there everyday on the news we need to be glad that we still have our health, we're a long way from starving and count our blessings like we should, but hey I'm human and my life seem important to me. We shouldn't have counted our chickens, but considering how long we've been waiting for them to hatch. They say it's the worse recession since forever and so I suppose that's what this is all about but I'm ready for a break, give me a break.

Next door put their house on the market a couple of weeks ago and sold it last week. Now we tried to be pleased for them, but it gave us a sinking feeling to be honest. Ok so they've double glazing and central heating but come on, where's the justice.

Patience, it will happen, but oooh it makes you wonder, this week, this month this year.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

At last we've found our boat


Over the next few days we were looking at C & C 38s on the net, all which were pristine compared to Seagull, boats of the same year, in good condition were selling at between 44 and 70,000 dollars. We started to have second thoughts about Seagull sitting abandoned in the mangroves, and realised that we hadn’t paid enough attention to her in our rush to get out of the rain. Over the weekend we decided that we needed to make a return trip to Luperon, if only to put our minds at rest that Seagull was a hopeless case.

It’s a bit of a journey by public transport to Luperon, so we were more than glad when our friend Martin offered to drive us. We were due to fly home on the Wednesday, so Tuesday we headed back to Luperon.

As we had an early start we breakfast in Luperon at Roberts Upper deck, contact Raymondo, and finally touch base about half eleven at the RIB jetty at Puerta Blanco where we find Ray fiddling about with his outboard, which is refusing to kick into life. Rays outboard is somewhat vintage in years, a little like the man himself, but Ray has a lifelong affinity with engineering and assures us that it’ll be sorted in a jiffy. He gingerly removes a few screws, making sure not to drop them in the drink, gives the filter a tap or two on the deck and replaces the said filter and float mechanism to the outboard.

 Martin and Jackie go off to browse another boat recently raised from the bottom of the bay, whilst I stay to lend moral support to Ray and the errant outboard. A few tugs on the starter cord suddenly sees the old dear kick into life and we’re away, picking up our other two crew members on the way to seagull. The engine dies as they get on board, but Martin lends a hand with the coaxing and she spits back into life. Off we chug to have another look at Seagull, about half a mile down the bay, there are no more incidents with the outboard, which now seems to be working fine.

Now the last thing that Jackie and I want is a project boat, and getting on board Seagull for a second time confirms that this is without doubt a project boat with a capital P. But there’s something about this project boat that won’t let us go and we begin to see beyond the superficial cosmetic state of the boat, both topsides and below. Ray is a seasoned sailor and having him around helps enormously, with an engineers’ eye as to what would be needed to bring this boat back to life.

 Although it’s impossible to say, the engine may be redeemable, with some new bits, like the starter for instance. The rest of the mechanics look OK, winches, windlass, standing rigging, plumbing. All may need taking apart and looking at, but in his opinion all it would take would be time to do the work and this could be a very fine sailing boat again.

There is though, the question of the electrics which have suffered badly from the robbery where the thieves have simply cut wires to remove what has been stolen. Everywhere there are holes where some bit of kit used to be, VHF, SSB, CD player etc. etc. There’s still lots of stuff here, whether it works or not we just can’t say, however the boat has a very homely feel, as Ray puts it, even in amongst all of this chaos, there’s something about her that keeps us engaged.

 By the time we leave we have spent about an hour and a half peering into all her nooks and crannies, and begin to feel that as big a project as Seagull is, it would not be beyond us to bring her back to life. She feels like our boat, I think we’ve fallen for her charms hidden beneath three years of neglect in Luperon Bay

We clamber back into the RIB for the short ride back to the “Marina” of Puerta Blanco, but guess what, the outboard can’t be coaxed into life. This is a problem, as Ray only has one paddle, well actually only half a paddle, getting back is going to take a little time.

 Martin & Jackie take turns at either side of the RIB to keep her going in a straight line, Martin demonstrating his “J” stroke technique, whilst Ray continues to tinker at the stern with the errant engine. He calls up a friend for a tow but they can’t help, so we wiggle our way slowly towards the quay, helped a little by the incoming tide and a bit of wind all going in the right direction. It all makes for a typical day afloat with Raymondo who is never phased by these small mishaps, and anyway, it’s not him that’s having to paddle. 

Half an hour later we share a couple of beers before heading back to Cabarete. That’s the moment when I realise I’ve left my trusty old fedora back on Seagull. Too late now to think about returning to get it back, and decide it must be a sign, “where ever I lay my hat that’s my home”, as the song says.

We’ll need to negotiate a good price, but if we can, then we believe that at last we have found our boat, she’s called Seagull, and is a C & C landfall 38, circa 1980, and what’s more she’s in Luperon in the Dominican Republic. Now all we have to do is raise the funds to make an offer, which is still dependant on selling one of the two properties here in England. Come on Gods, time to shed a little fortune our way, and the adventure can begin. 

Boat hunting in Luperon


We needed to get away for a couple of weeks, as winter rolled on and on, and so come January 2nd we’re on our way back to the Dominican Republic, back to our little apartamento at Orilla Del Mar. This is going to be a holiday of do nothing, chill, as the modern lingo has it. The only adventure we’re going to go on will be a gua gua ride to visit an old friend of ours in Luperon.  We will also have a look at a couple of boats that Gill has for sale.

We manage to hitch a ride from the main highway when a flash station wagon stops. We climb in and meet a young but astute lawyer whose on his way to sort out a land deal and drops us right where we want to be at Shaggies bar.  Although now it’s JR’s but it’s the same old place now owned by Gill, that’s another Gill, not the yacht broker.

We phone the other Gill, and our old friend Ray to arrange to view some boats in the afternoon. That turns out to be a problem as Ray, who now is the guy who will be taking us around has gone off to Santiago on some mission about an engine. He wont be back until the evening. So we find a hotel and potter away the day in Luperon. Me to do a little watercolour whilst Jackie opts for a siesta. We arrange to meet Ray at the trivia quiz evening back at JRs.

JRs is the yachties hang out in town, and although this is sailing season there’s still a few here, enough for a social gathering. We arrive after the quiz has started but soon fall into the swing of things. We generally hang out, but once word gets out that you want to buy a boat everybody’s your friend. At the end of the night just as we’re leaving I’m approached by an old female salt who said she’s got a boat for sale that’s tied up in the mangroves, She’s got arthritis and can’t handle the sheets anymore. It’s a C&C she tells me but I honestly am only half aware of what she said as people are offering their goodbyes at the same time.

Next day we start with breakfast at the ‘Upper Deck’, nowhere near as posh as it sounds, no menu, just breakfast. As we eat the rain pours down, a heavy shower, looks like this will be the pattern for the day. Ray meets us there and we head off to Puerto Blanco to pick up the RIB.
First stop is the Alberg that we’ve been looking at on the web. Somebodies put in an offer of £21,000, that’s a third off the asking price, and they’ve accepted so that gives us an indication of how the market is here. The Alberg is ok but doesn’t light my fire. Next up is Bobs boat, a Gulfstar 41, and Bob is aboard. It’s a bit messy, to say the least but a lot of boat, very liveaboard, he’s asking $44000, Then Wolf’s  Cape Dory, I don’t remember much about his boat, nice guy but not our boat.

The clouds are gathering over Luperon Bay and Ray is heading for a boat called Seagull that’s tied up to the Mangroves. Just before we get there the heavens open and we scramble aboard this boat, and quickly get the hatch open and get out of the rain.  To be quite honest, this boat does not look too good, if fact at first sight it’s not far from being sunk. But it is still afloat and the cabin is a dry retreat from the rain.

 I’m first down the companionway, and according to Jackie she hears me exclaiming a few ooos and ooooohs of approval.

Below deck is almost as much of a state of neglect as topsides, but wait a minute, the layout is very interesting. The Galley is quite large for a boat this size, 38ft, and right opposite are the heads. Not only are these spacious but there’s a separate shower cubicle. The sink is hidden under old pipes and ropes, the galley in need of a couple of days cleaning.

So once the rain has stopped we climb back up, and close the hatch, another look around the deck where the rain lies in puddles behind the gunnels. Everywhere is neglect and rusting, shame this could have been a nice boat in it’s day.

We clamber back down into the RIB and head back to the pontoon of puerto blanco. Ray gives us a lift to Imbert and we catch the bus back home.

On the way back, we puzzle about what make that last boat could have been, something about her had stirred our curiosity, somehow we needed to know what make of boat that was.

The name of the boat was Seagull, that’s all we had so we put that into a few of the brokerage search bars and drew a blank. Lots of stuff about seagulls on google images but as for an advert for this boat ,nothing.

 We phoned Ray who didn’t know who the maker was but would ask the owner later that night at JRs. Next day we managed to speak to the owner who told us that the boat was a C & C landfall 38. 

She had been lying there abandoned for about three years and had been robbed of most of her electrical components, including her batteries.