Saturday, 28 January 2012

Barbados – it’s Rum Time! ….. Jan 2012

09 – 18 January 2012

P1010040 We arrived in Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados  around 5.45pm after 14 days at sea crossing the Atlantic, what an enormous relief to get into flatter water and drop the anchor.  But sometimes things don’t turn out quite as you think they should, we took 4 attempts at getting the anchor to set – never before have we needed 4 attempts – where was all the sandy bottom we expected?  The sun had dipped over the horizon while we were still finding a home for the night, darkness arrives very quickly in the tropics, happy hour celebrations were continuing onboard Matador without us, tempers were getting frayed, but then the anchor finally set.   Our kiwi friends Brenda and David on Bandit  dinghied over to us with fresh fruit, NZ cheese and David’s freshly baked bread and soon after taxied us across to their boat for rum punches and dinner. It was wonderful to have such a welcome after so long at sea.  P1120049

The rocking and rolling continued unfortunately, the swell crept around the headland and came in beam-on, however it was nowhere near as bad at being at sea, we just felt a little hard done by,  a lovely calm and sunny anchorage would have been just the ticket after what we had been through!!  I mention sunny as it was often squally, but Balvenie came out sparkling clean, finally rid of months of dust and ingrained dirt, it is worth having the rain to have such a salt, dust and dirt free home.

Our first few days seemed to pass me by, I felt like I was operating in a zombie state almost doing things by remote control.  It took a while for the relief of successfully crossing the Atlantic Ocean on our own yacht to work its way through my brain and to let my body know that life would be returning to normal (well normal for us!!)  The weather was very changeable - hot, sunny days with regular afternoon rain showers, so that didn’t encourage us to get out and explore, and then the watermaker decided to set a record for having the most breakdowns in a week.P1010045  For skipper it was back to “Maintenance in Exotic Places”, he spent 3 days fixing 3 different failures, one resulted in several litres of salt water being pumped into the bilge – not a good thing, another resulted in several litres of salt water being pumped into our fresh water tanks – now this is a very bad thing and until it is diluted back to an acceptable level we will be purchasing drinking water, oh what fun. 

As the days passed new arrivals made landfall.  Tactical Directions and Ventana followed us in then Eye Candy and Resolute arrived also.  All of them as happy and relieved as we were to have “crossed the pond”.

In order to perk up spirits (quite literally) there was nothing for it but to abandon ship one afternoon and head to the Mt Gay Rum Factory.   Skippers “rum of choice” has always been Mt Gay since he started yacht racing in Auckland, participating in the Thursday afternoon Rum Races.  Many miles have gone under the keel since then, and many many bottles of Mt Gay Rum have been emptied .  Now it was time to see “where the rum that invented rum” was born.   In true cruiser style an outing was planned and several of us headed for the Mt Gay Bottling Plant in Bridgetown for the  “Tour and Tastings” experience.  There are several different plants around the island and this is only the bottling plant, so you don’t get to see the actual production process, however they have an excellent informative short film, followed by rum tasting of three different aged  rums, the measures were very generous.  The adjoining bar area overlooked a lovely flat bay (where no anchoring is permitted!), rum punches were ordered and the afternoon just slipped away.

 2012 Barbados

On Friday night we ventured out between the showers and went firstly to the newly opened J’s Lucky 7 Bar for a rum punch to celebrate Stu off Matadors birthday then piled into buses, minivans and taxis and all headed out to the Oistins Bay Friday Night Fish Fry UpP1120051  It’s a market stall type set up, with around 50 stalls selling the catch of the day and the local speciality – flying fish sandwiches.  If you are lucky you get something with it, maybe fried plantain chips or a little coleslaw.  It’s all plastic chairs, tables, plates, knives and forks – very cheap and cheerful but without the cheap!!  The minivan ride was the most entertaining part of the evening,.  One of those little competitions to see just how many people you can fit into a minivan, how loud will the music go and how long can you drive down the wrong side of the road before you hit something???

It was time for Tony to leave us, head for New Orleans, journey across America and then fly home to Auckland.  It had been great having him aboard and deciding to ask him to do the crossing with us had been one of the best decisions we had made.  Thanks for coming Tony.2012 Barbados-1

More days passed, we slipped in a few walks along the beach, sundowners at the welcoming Barbados Cruising Club, snorkelling on a wreck further across in the bay and then the Caribbean Twenty 20 Cricket Series came to the Bridgetown Kensington Oval, definitely time for another cruisers outing.  We walked to the ground and enjoyed watching the Windward Islands play the Leeward Islands in a evening match.  There wasn’t quite as much razzmatazz and audience participation as we had thought there might be, maybe because it wasn’t Barbados playing, but it was a good game and a fun outing. 

P1170067 We had been waiting for our headsail to be repaired by the local Doyle Sails Loft.  When ready we undertook a rather exciting surf landing on the beach to collect it, managed to get a lull in the wind just long enough to reattach, hoist and furl it in then started making our preparations to leave Barbados.  It was time to sail westward once again for the final Atlantic leg. An overnight sail another 100 miles to the island destination of Bequia …. part of the St Vincent and Grenadines chain. As Balvenie sailed away from Bridgetown the floodlights of the Kensington Oval Cricket Ground lit up the evening sky before slowly dipping below the eastern horizon behind us. Darkness enveloped us once again and revealed all the now familiar star formations across the night sky made all the more vivid on a moonless night. Balvenie jogged westward on a steady easterly trade wind, rolling to the rhythm of the Atlantic swell.  Dawn would see us approaching the Windward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean.     

For Cruising and Touristy info go to and click on the Barbados label on the left sidebar.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Click below to see our voyage map across the Atlantic


Balvenie arrived safely at Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados just before 6pm local time (right on sunset) on 09 January 2012 after 14 days at sea.
Position 13:05N 59:37W.  It's time to crack open the rum bottle and celebrate.

The Mighty Atlantic Ocean has been Conquered.

Monday, 9 January 2012

From a Distance

Sunrise on our final day at sea
Land Ahoy at 3.45pm GMT 09 January 2012

From a distance ........... we can see Barbados.  We have 23 miles to run to the bottom of the island so will arrive in daylight.
The last 24 hours have been lovely, still the roll and lurching around, but we are so used to it now.  But the skies have been clear and we enjoyed a magical final night with an almost full moon and many stars.  

We even spotted a huge turtle about an hour ago, morale is very very high.  As I type I am hearing the first transmission on the VHF radio for about 12 days, there is life out there!!!  

Carlisle Bay anchorage at Bridgetown, Barbados here we come ...............

Sunday, 8 January 2012


riding along on the crest of a wave ....
Current position at 3pm GMT 12:54N 56:21W.  Guess what, we still have 20 - 25 knots of wind, lumpy 2 metre confused seas, but today it is clear and sunny again, very warm and Balvenie is romping along at over 7 knots.  By this time tomorrow we might be able to see Barbados and we hope to have anchor down before dark.

Todays song "Rawhide" has been chosen for it double meaning.  The verse of "Rolling, rolling, rolling" has become one of our theme songs , and yes - our hides are becoming somewhat raw (otherwise known as Boaties Bottom) with the endless hours of sitting on them as they wobble backwards and forwards on the cockpit cushions.  Arhhh, not for too much longer though.

Today is my Dad's 84th Birthday, well done Dad, thats quite an achievement.  And while thinking of my parents Tony and I were discussing rolly polly last night, of course talking about the sea state but then I remembered the yummy jam rolly polly pudding Mum often made when we were growing up, served drowned in fresh New Zealand cream, oh how good that was!!!

So there is little new to report from here, moral is high with the chequered flag in sight, possibly even the beat of a distant steel drum - or maybe thats just Thumper the watermaker going.  The fishing line has just been deployed, it really is still too rough but we would like to stock up while we can.  

Our wildlife spotting has not furnished anything exciting .  There have been sea birds now and again, right across the ocean, but we haven't seen any dolphins, turtles or whales.  Very unusual not to have any dolphins come to play, Tony is very disappointed.  We have seen a huge amount of seaweed, it just keeps on coming, acres of it and all the boats have commented on how much is floating around.  Might have to Google on arrival to see if there is a seaweed invasion going on.  There have been no amazing sunsets, no green flashes, no beautiful dawns (so never got to use that song title).  I have just been advised that the last few nights setting of the moon has been spectacular (I am asleep) and we are very happy to be able to see the Southern Cross low in the sky off our port beam, it has been truly missed in the Northern Hemisphere night sky.  We nearly have a full moon now so evenings are light, even if any cloud cover.    
One more evening watch to go ...................................

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Yesterday !!.

Current position 3pm GMT 13:01N 53:30W, wind back up to 18-25 knots from the ENE, swell 2 metres NE, total cloud cover, going 6.5knots

(Todays posting done by the skipper)  New Lyrics to be sung to John Lennons classic.

Yesterday...all the dark cloud seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though its here to stay.
Oh...I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly...big black clouds are all that I can see.
There's a darkness hanging over me.
Oh..I believe in yesterday.

Why they had to come I don't know...Mark wouldn't say.
Did I say something wrong, how I long for yesterdaaayeh eh eh eh?.....and so on !!!!.

Well...after a postcard day out in the middle of the Atlantic yesterday, today has dawned quite grey and overcast.  It is a feature of this route to the Caribbean that as we close the West Indies and the South American coast we encounter tropical squalls and clouds. The worry for us is that some of these squalls can pack alot of wind for a brief time so we are ever vigilant particularly in the dark not to get caught with our trousers down and too much sail up!!  This morning we are romping along at 8 knots running before the trade winds and now only 368 miles to go to the Mt Gay Rum factory in Barbados. We are hoping for a Monday daytime arrival and we have fair winds and moderate seas forecast for the next few days... and so we are starting to see the finish line...phew !!.

Thought I might give you all an idea of our routine on board.
We operate on a 24 hour cycle rather than day or night. Day and night has no meaning out here other than being able to see or not being able to see. That said, we have had moonlit nights lately casting a dim glow over the sky and sea which makes night time watches much easier. our 24 hr cycle kicks off at 8am (local time) with a radio sched with all the other yachts crossing with us.. some are a few days ahead... some are a few days behind. We are like a train of yachts on the rhumb line (otherwise known as the Mt Gay Rum Line... funny huh ??!!!) between The Verdes and Barbados. We check in with each other and broadcast our positions, conditions  and status on board. At the mo there are 15 yachts on the roll call. The one's that arrive drop off the top and the one's that leave get added to the bottom so as you journey across you move up the list until you too drop off the edge of the known world!  We organize it ourselves and a different yacht facilitates it each day. So that gets us to around 8.30am and thats it of the day at leisure.  No not really...then its breaky time, muesli and fruit after which Tony will stay up on watch and us 2 get some ZZZZs. The watch system is fairly loose during the day depending on maintenance issues, who is sleep deprived etc etc.

Pretty soon after breakfast we start thinking about lunch... normally wraps with tuna etc. Then we fire up the computer and sat phone and produce and transmit the days report and other emails before downloading incoming emails. This is the most important part of the day because we receive a daily weather report from our friend John our land based weather guru who tells us what to expect for the next few days and he can reroute us to avoid any nasty stuff developing in our path.  Thanks John...again !!!.   We also receive in all emails from families and friends - a huge morale boost.

Ok.. so then afternoons are spent resting, reading, snoozing etc. Trust me the best place to be on a yacht in the ocean is horizontal.  It is very difficult to carry out even the most basic of human functions (if you get my drift) when the boat is pitching and rolling and the motion is very tiring. We have another informal chat with a few other yachts on the radio at 3.00pm. Then we do some house work as well as some checks around the boat, rudder, steering, autopilot, bilges, rigging, sails etc etc etc. If we have a to find it early !!. Then its early dinner and Amanda has done a great job in a difficult rollling galley to produce food I'd pay for in a restaurant. ie crumbed, panfried mahi mahi and last night...lamb chops, mash potato, peas, gravy. If conditions are ok we may have a beer or a wine. Then at 7.00pm we are into a strict night watch regime...Amanda 7.00pm to 11.00pm, Tony 11.00pm to 3.00am, Mark 3.00am to 7.00am. That way the 2 off watch can rest for 8 hours. It has been a godsend on this longer trip having Tony on board. On previous passages Amanda and I would do 3 hours on ,3 hours off continuously and that really wears you down especially if we are in bad weather !!!.

The watches have been quite easy...there is very little to watch out here. We last saw a ship over a week ago never know and so regular radar checks and 360 degree visual sweeps are mandatory. Then before you know it.. its 8.00am again ....                               

So there we have in day out.
....and so with the sun poking through and the Admiral snoring in the corner, Balvenie relentlessly presses her bow ever westward...her sails are full and the crew give a hearty cheer as thoughts turn to steel drums, shacky beach reggae bars, cricket and of course the reason we are making this epic pilgrimage... Rum tasting !!!!. .

Footnote: Previous correspondent currently suspended due to negative comments and feedback.            

Friday, 6 January 2012

What A Difference A Day Makes

Current Position 4.15pm GMT 12:56N 51:03W, hardly a cloud to be seen, around 15 knots east south easterly, still rolly but what an improvement.
Tony at the helm

1st Officer Tony reports -  At last the Big A is doing as expected = the NE trade wind is blowing 10-15knots: the sea is a deep azure; the sky eggshell; the clouds fluffy white; the sun scorching down; but the fish are not biting today...always a serpent in Eden? We're rolling along at 6knots;  just enjoyed a cappuncino on the poop deck; nearly time for lunch (our snactition says it's corn fritters today's a hard life on the ocean). Day 12 and only 500 miles to the Mt.Gay rum factory in Bridgetown, Barbados; all is well. 

Admiral here - well what can I add!!!  After a full day of squalls yesterday we had a magical moonlit night with gentle winds and almost comfortable seas.  Onboard morale is at a peak, there was considerable room for improvement. What short memories ocean sailors have !!.

 The "Crew" are all happy.  Henry the Helicopter (Wind Generator) is having the day off today as the winds are lighter, he has done a sterling job so far even though he is so so noisy (an "almost silent" Airbreeze - yeah right!!).  The Twins (solar panels) are soaking up the sun and topping up the batteries, long  may that continue.  Ray and Arnie the two autopilots have been doing the steering shifts between them, so get to have a decent rest, just like the three of just real crew on board.  Jenny the Generator had a run this morning and we enjoyed our first espressos in 12 days, maybe that is what has perked me up so much!  Olive the Volvo has to work an hour each day to run the freezer, now that it is warming up so much she might just have to start putting in a little overtime.  Thumper the noisy watermaker comes on when we tire of the peace and quiet out here.

... and finally from the skipper..
On a more serious note. There is no doubt that the first week of this voyage was tough with big seas and strong winds but it was absolutely no more than we expected to encounter at some point on this voyage. The crew and Balvenie were well prepared. Balvenie proved once again that she is a true ocean thoroughbred...designed and built for such conditions. So we have 500 miles to go...still alot of work to be done but for now we can relax and enjoy the kinder conditions.                 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

still out here
Current Position at 4.30pm GMT 12:19N 48:37W, total cloud cover, rain squalls since 5am, winds around 17 - 23 knots, swell easing a little but still nice and rolly.

The positive news today is that we have an exceptionally clean boat, on the outside anyway.  We have been getting rain squalls all day, I am so pleased we have furling headsails, we just keep rolling them in and out.  We haven't had much wind in the squalls but know that if we don't shorten sail for a squall then that will be the one with plenty of wind in it!!

Passed another yacht overnight, it is just going a little slower than us, don't know who it is and couldn't raise them on the VHF so have just done the "Ships that pass in the Night" thing with them.

Thanks to everyone that is emailing words of encouragment, advice, news and gossip to us, we very much enjoy our daily connect to the outside world and love getting the emails.

We have turned our clocks back another hour so are now on GMT -2, it was still dark at 8am this morning so that will make it better, we still need to adjust 2 more hours to get onto Barbados time. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

If Tomorrow Never Comes

Current Position at 1530 GMT is 12:06N 45:52W.  The only thing changing from day to day is our position and mental state!!

Each day the weather forecast shows improvements tomorrow, then tomorrow arrives and becomes today and the weather shows improvements from tomorrow.  This has gone on now for several days and is becoming somewhat tiresome.  In fairness though, although the wind increased overnight it has dropped a fraction this afternoon - trying to hover at just over 20 knots and the seas really aren't big they are just very confused.
he jerky motion of the boat is still making it very difficult to do anything (as I slide off the chair, leg outstretched wedged under the fire extinguisher to try and give me some support).  Doing dinner last night was a battle and I crashed my wrist into the benchtop while using two hands to dish up, silly me I should know better by now but it is very hard to dish up one handed.

So as you can see my sense of humour has jumped overboard, I hope it was wearing its life jacket so we can retrieve it again one day.  Talking of life jackets, we are all developing rashes around our necks from non stop wearing. It's getting abit hot now for them too, but until the seas settle, or we anchor - whichever comes first and I suspect it may the later - we will keep wearing them.  Still too rough to fish, all those Mahi Mahi swimming around out there, what a waste.

I'll try and remember to take some happy pills in the morning to make tomorrows update a little more upbeat .... until then 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Better Days

rolling along on a sunnier day
Current Position at 1700 GMT 12:02N 43:15W, nothing else has changed really, slight easing of wind, about 18-23 knots, seas still as lumpy as ever but swell starting to be a little more uniform, speed around 6.7 knots.

Well the highlights of the last 24 hours have been our half way party at 3am and no rain squalls.  The sails have not needed changing but it is cloudy again now so we are still on squall alert.  The sea state is still pretty awful really, but the miles are slipping away and we are now well under 1000 to go, yippee.

The fishing line did not get deployed, just too rough still to be on the back of the boat if we did happen to catch something, so it looks like spaghetti bolognese for dinner.  Wish I'd made up two weeks supply of passage meals, its a real challange trying to cook in this jerky roll.

Tony on Aussie Catamaran Tactical Directions is still coping single handed, he seems to have sorted out his autopilot issues but the latest on this afternoons sched was that his freezer has gone into meltdown, bugger. 

Kiwi's David and Brenda on Bandit have just one more night to go before arriving in Barbados, good on them.  Brenda very kindly bought us a Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding at Morrisons in Gibraltar and brought it all the way to the Canaries for us, the pudding was devoured at Christmas lunch and the cake hidden away and rationed, last rations tomorrow.... always good to have something to look forward to.

Skipper thinks I am sounding way too negative, I have told him he can sit here and type if he wants to.  I'd love to say I'm having heaps of fun out here and enjoying every minute but honestly I'm getting by, it's ok but I would much rather be where we were last New Year and thats having fun skiing in Switzerland!!!  

Monday, 2 January 2012

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

enjoying a calmer day
Current Position at 3.30pm GMT 12:03N 40:18W,  around 18 - 23 knots ENE, rolling NE swell becoming more uniform, sun is shining with a few fluffy clouds around.
We have now been out here for 7 days and have covered 981 miles which is an average of 5.83knots.  Not too bad considering we have had very little sail up.  We now have just over 80 miles to go to our half way point.

So here we are again but starting to feel somewhat more positive.  Todays song title was going to be "Things can only get better" but they have got better so we will stow that one away and hopefully not need to use it during the rest of our trip.

We have just unfurled the headsail right out for the first time for days, its on the pole out on windward and the staysail is sheeted in on port to stop us rolling, jury is out on whether it helps.  We had a real squally night with lots of rain and stronger winds, hopefully we have now left all that behind.  Balvenie is relishing the conditions as we fly along at 7.3 knots, pointed straight at the Mount Gay Rum Factory in Barbados.

Tony is off for his afternoon nap and has managed one step unaided across the cabin before crashing into the door frame - oh well at least he tried!!!

Used the last of our fresh greens for lunch, oh no it looks like we will get scurvy.  Had a slight hiccup when I went ashore to do the fresh produce provisioning on Christmas Eve in Mindelo, I only had a few euros left and all the ATM machines had run out of money, think there might have been  several people in Mindelo that didn't get any Christmas presents.  Well we didn't get much produce, but trust me, there are plenty of other food options onboard.   

Sunday, 1 January 2012

What a Swell Party This Is ...... Happy New Year

we only take photos on sunny days!
Current Position at 4pm GMT New Years Day is 11:58N 37:51W.  Sun currently shining in between the endless march of nasty squalls, wind currently 25 knots, less sometimes, more in squalls, seas are very very confused, we are getting somewhat tired of this and really hope to see an improvement ..... soon - as are the other boats around us!!!

Enjoyed our "virtual" New Years Eve party onboard Matador  who are a few days ahead of us, Stuart caught a huge tuna so him and Steph kindly invited all of us out here to a sushi party for New Year, entertainment was provided onboard by local group "The Flying Fish", and a swell time was had by all.

Skipper has finally deployed the lee cloth on his bunk after being thrown out of bed 3 times, a sensible move it would seem. 

Life is continuing in survival mode, it will be a momentous occassion when the first one of us takes a step through the boat unaided ... may that day come soon.
Quote of this Year
If you are not living on the edge you are taking up far too much room