Hi there, and welcome to the Sailing Éalú blog! Since we decided to take the leap and head off on our little boat, we’ve had so much interest from family, friends and colleagues about our plans and what we’re up to, that we decided to keep a blog of our travels. Here you’ll be able to keep up with where we’ve been, our exploits along the way, and no doubt the challenges we’ve faced as we make our way South to the Canary Islands, and towards the sunny Caribbean.
This blog actually started several months ago, as my own personal ramblings about the journey we’ve been on – starting from deciding to take the leap, searching for and buying a boat, trip planning, logistics, exams and qualifications we’ve undertaken, and the trials and tribulations of planning a trip like this around our current “real life” jobs.
In our last blog we were preparing to leave Martinique, and head further north up the island chain. We left St Pierre, and made the long sail 80 miles north to Iles des Saintes, where we dropped anchor in the beautiful Terre de Haut.
This small group of islands are part of the French island of Guadeloupe, so we were only too happy to continue our love affair with fresh baguettes and pain au chocolat each day. The tiny island had plenty for us to see and do, and my land loving legs were delighted to have the opportunity to do lots of walks and exploring. Fort Napoleon sits up one of the hills on the island, and we walked up there for an explore. The old fort is really impressive, and has a great little museum inside, with exhibits on island life, and the history of the building. Other highlights included renting some golf buggies with 8 other cruisers, and exploring the entire island, and a long, hot hike up the largest hill, Shameaux, for the best views of the anchorage. Perhaps the most entertaining part of our stay here was the daily fight for mooring balls, which were in high demand. Each day new boats would circle the anchorage waiting for a departing boat, and then a hunger games style battle would ensue until one boat managed to secure their lines. For the boats remaining, this provided some entertainment over our breakfast each day.
After a week or so in the Saintes, it was time to move on, and we sailed up to Guadeloupe, and our first stop in Pigeon Island. This pretty anchorage is a marine reserve, and is well known for some of the best snorkelling in the Eastern Caribbean. We spent a brilliant couple of days swimming with turtles, and snorkelling the coral reefs, however the bay was a little too rolly for a comfortable nights sleep, so we upped anchor, and sailed to Deshaies, in the north of the island.
Deshaies was a great spot, and is well known as the setting for the BBC TV series Death in Paradise. They have a number of free mooring balls, so we managed to find one close to shore, and settled in for a few days. We had decided to sign up to complete our Open Water PADI scuba dive course, so for the next week or so, we alternated our days between diving, and exploring Guadeloupe. Our dive course was done over three mornings with the wonderful Eric from Sub tropical Diving, with 2 dives each morning, every second day. We were treated to an outstanding array of marine wildlife, and each dive we saw something new – we were totally hooked!
When we weren’t diving, we hired a car, and went to see the many beautiful sights on the island of Guadeloupe. We visited the waterfalls at Carbet, swam in the very cold pool at the bottom of Saut D’Acomat falls, and found the hot springs at Bouillante, where the islands geothermal plant spills the natural hot water into the bay. Another reason we enjoyed our time in Deshaies so much was that we were in great company – several other boats we’d met along the way were also there, so we spent plenty of time socialising, and enjoyed some excellent pizza during our stay!
After we passed the PADI course, we booked in with our dive shop to do another dive, back at Pigeon Island. Some of our cruising buddies also signed up so it was really fun to do our first qualified dive with friends, where we saw turtles, eels, baracuda, pufferfish, and a whole host of other colourful sea life.
Eventually, the “itchy feet” set in, and we decided to move on up to Antigua. Our first port of call was to Jolly Harbour on the east coast, where we found the most incredible supermarket! First things first, we stocked up the boat with all manner of treats and goodies!
We quickly fell in love with Antigua – the water is crystal clear and the most amazing blues. As Antigua is not part of the volcanic chain, the beaches are soft white sand, and beautifully clean. We had friends arriving into the Island for the Caribbean 600 race, so after we had checked in and re-provisioned, we sailed around to Falmouth Harbour, where most of the yachts for the race where based. Falmouth and English Harbours are wishing walking distance of each other, and tucked away between the two is the beautiful Nelsons Dockyard. The old dockyard was built in Admiral Nelsons time during the 1700s, and for a small fee, you an explore the old sail loft, visit the little museum, and wander around the old fort. We hiked up the very scenic Middle Ground trail between the two harbours, and we thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon and evening at the 600 opening party with friends, and wished them all good luck for the race. With slightly sore heads the following morning, we pulled up the anchor, and sailed around the east coast of Antigua, to Green Island. This large lagoon faces the Atlantic Ocean, but is protected by a huge reef, which provides a stunning view each morning, with the added bonus of a peaceful nights sleep! We spent a wonderful 5 days there with our buddies on Adrenaline. There isn’t much going on out there, and it’s the perfect place to unwind with some kitesurfing, beach BBQs and lots of snorkelling!
However, after a few days of peace and quiet, I was longing for a big of land life, so we sailed back to Falmouth Harbour. Here, we did the stunning hike along the cliff up to Shirley Heights, and treated ourselves to lunch and an afternoon by the pool at the Boom Restaurant.
We greeted a few pals as they finished the Caribbean 600 race, and indulged in a delicious pizza with a good friend from home, before heading back to Jolly Harbour, where we were leaving Ealu for a few days while we flew to Miami for the Bacardi Cup in the Melges 24.
We took advantage of having a marina berth and ticked off a few boat jobs including a rig check, and a full clean and polish. With Ealu gleaming in the sun, we took off for Miami, and as always, we had an absolute blast with Team Barbarians. This event was particularly great for us, as there were so many of our friends from home there, and we made sure to spend time catching up on all the news from home, and spending time with people we hadn’t seen for nearly a year. I felt a bit deflated when it was time to leave, and we had to fly back to the boat while every one else was heading for home, and the homesickness kicked in for a couple of days.
When we arrived back to Antigua, the realties of the ongoing Coronavirus were becoming apparent, so we decided to wait a few days before we left the island, to see how things played out. While we were here, we sailed up to the absolutely stunning island of Barbuda, 20 miles off the north coast of Antigua, and anchored off the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen! 17 miles long, with a very slight pink colour in the sand, it looked like something from a postcard. We were delighted to drop the anchor next to our buddies on Music and Life of Reilly, and it looked like the perfect place to catch up on sleep and recover from the last few days of travelling and racing in Miami.
We had a very leisurely time in Barbuda, and the first couple of days were spent reading, walking for miles on the gorgeous beach, and swimming in the bluest water we’ve see in the Caribbean! We helped friends to recover their anchor after the chain broke a few days previously, and caught up with a few small admin tasks. We also booked a tour to the other end of the island to climb the caves at Two Foot bay, and to visit the Frigate Bird Colony. Our guide Chris showed us around the island – Barbuda was hit very hard by Hurricane Irma in 2017, and is still recovering. The tiny island is very flat, so what ever wasn’t damaged by the high winds was inevitably destroyed by the storm surge that followed. The short hike up to the caves was excellent, we started on the white sand beach, and climbed up through the cave, eventually emerging on the top of the small cliffs, know as the “highlands”. The views across the Atlantic coast were great, and we took lots of excellent photos!
After a morning exploring the caves, we drove on to the tiny harbour in Codrington (the islands only town) to meet our guide “Straight”, who would take us by boat to see the Frigate bird colony. The colony on Barbuda is the largest in the world, and these strange looking birds take up residence in the lagoon each mating season. We were lucky enough to visit when there were loads of tiny baby birds in their nests, so although the visit was short, we were really glad to have been able to make the trip. After a tasty lunch in Uncle Roddy’s we went back to the boat to prepare for our sail back to Antigua in the morning.
By this stage, it had become apparent that the Coronavirus wasn’t going anywhere soon, and we needed to rethink our plans for the coming weeks. After much deliberation, and with some islands closing their borders, we decided that the safest thing would be to cancel our plans to visit Monserrat and Kitts and Nevis for the time being. We had to weigh up where would be the best place to stay, in the event that we got stuck somewhere for a few weeks should travel bans come into effect, and Antigua seemed like our best option. For now, we’ve committed to spending the next couple of weeks here to see how things evolve, and will keep our plans very flexible for the coming weeks.
We’re thinking of everyone at home, and sending all the good vibes and positive thoughts to family and friends everywhere – stay safe, and we’ll see you soon.
We’ve packed in a lot since our last post, and we’re well into the New Year. Time has been going so quickly, and now it feels like it’s sped up even more, as 2020 starts flying by. It’s hard to believe we left Ireland 7 months ago already.
After we left St Vincent, we made the short crossing to St Lucia, where our first stop was the very dramatic Pitons, in the south of the island. These two impressive mountains stand out on the horizon for miles around and we picked up a mooring ball right between the two for a night. The scenery was stunning and we discussed over our sun downers how they looked too steep to climb – we were soon to meet friends who proved otherwise!
Our next stop was Marigot Bay where we spent New Years eve. The price of our morning ball there included access to the nearby hotel pool and bar, where we spent many long hours enjoying the rum punch, and a non salty swim to cool off. New Years eve was a fun night, with plenty of rum and fireworks at midnight. In an effort to clear the heads, and in keeping with our normal tradition at home, we set off on New Years Day for a very hot hike up the nearby hill with friends from “Defiant” and “Belle”. What was labeled as an “intermediate” walk on the guide soon turned into an “Advanced” as we scaled the hillside with the help of ropes and ladders, but the views from the top were more than worth the effort! Keen to make the most of a great weather window, later that afternoon, we cast off the lines, and headed further north to our next stop in Rodney Bay, in the north of St Lucia.
In spite of some previously mixed reviews of St Lucia, Rodney Bay was a favourite of ours – we anchored near Pigeon Island, where we enjoyed some surprisingly excellent snorkelling, and explored the old Fort and view point with the “Defiant” crew. We really enjoyed our stops there, since Christmas, I’d been feeling bit homesick and not quite myself, but getting off the boat to explore, enjoying a few good hikes and hanging out with other cruisers really helped to get me back “on an even keel” – pun intended!
After a few days here, Martinique was our next island on the list, and we had one of the best sails so far on our crossing from Rodney Bay over to St Anne, in the south of Martinique. The French islands are really quite amazing, and we now know why the cruisers all look forward to them so much! We anchored up in the gorgeous St Annes, which has a brilliant purpose built dinghy dock, and the best boulangerie! Every morning we went ashore and indulged in fresh Pain au Chocolat or Croissants, and picked up a freshly baked baguette still warm from the oven to take back for lunch. St Anne felt like paradise – all the sun, beaches, sparkling water and palm trees of the Caribbean, with the added bonus of fresh pastries, cheese, and French wine!! This was also a place to really stock up the provisions on the boat – we could buy pretty much everything here, so we made sure to do a couple of really big shops in the proper supermarkets while we had the opportunity. There is also a Decathlon here, so we made sure to top up the stock of shorts and bikinis as well!
One of the big highlights from our time in Martinique was climbing Mount Pelée. This is the islands famous volcano, who’s devastating eruption in 1902 wiped out entire towns in the north of the island – more on that later! We hired a car with a bunch of other crazy cruisers, and set off from St Anne at 6am to drive north to Morne Rouge, where we’d begin our hike. Mount Pelée is nearly always covered in cloud, but we’d been told that our best chance of catching a view was early morning, so by 7:30am, we were all lacing up our runners and beginning our ascent. In hindsight, we picked a pretty bad day to climb, but that sort of added to the fun in the end! We trekked up in the rain and wind for about 3 hours, until we reached the “Caldera”, or crater at the top. From there, we looped around the edge of the Caldera to the far side, then climbed down into the bottom of it – it was really quite the adventure at this point. It was a very steep climb back out the other side (there were a few ladders involved), and a few ginger biscuits were needed to fuel up! It rained so hard that we never really did get to see the view, but we had a great time, and in spite of the sore legs the following day, it was a definite achievement! Thanks to all the gang from Saoirse, Adrenaline, Belle, Music and Bacchus for being such great company and sharing the fun!
After we left St Anne, we anchored in Anse D’Arlet, a really pretty little bay, with a small village, and great snorkelling. On our sail over, we caught a reasonably sized Barracuda, but not much else! While in Anse D’Arlet, we tried our hand at Lobster fishing, and had limited success – all credit to the Soairse guys, who managed to snare two, that we cooked up on the BBQ that evening, along with a tasty little Lion fish! Lion fish are taking over the reefs in the Caribbean, as they have no known predators, and can lay up to 2 MILLION eggs each year. So we were glad to do our bit and catch one for dinner (Thanks Saoirse!) Other highlights included a very scenic walk up and over Morne Champagne, into the next bay of Grande Anse, which was also really picturesque.
We spent a couple of days in Anse Noir, a cute little bay, with a black sand beach (hence the name), and loads and loads of turtles! They swam all around the boat, and we saw several of them hanging out in the sea grass while we snorkelled.
Soon it was time for us to head back to St Lucia, where we had flights booked to Miami for our next Melges 24 event. We spent a couple of days in Rodney Bay giving the boat a thorough wash and clean and making her look beautiful again after a couple of months of hard cruising! Before we flew, we tucked her safely into a berth in the Marina, and enjoyed a pizza in Elenas – best pizza in the Caribbean (so far!)
The airport in St Lucia is at the opposite end of the island to the marina, so we hopped in a taxi, for probably one of the most scenic taxi trips ever! We wiggled across the island, over huge hills and along beautiful sandy beaches – we could see why St Lucia is the honeymoon capital of the Caribbean. However while beautiful, there were defiantly a few questionable attitudes to health and safety, and our taxi driver tailgated a rather dubious looking truck up the very steep hill – we were a little relieved when he finally sped past him on a sharp corner and took off down the hill at breakneck speed. Having arrived at the airport in one piece, our flight arrived as scheduled (not always the case in the islands!) and we departed for Miami.
As always, we thoroughly enjoyed a few days of racing, catching up with friends, and all the luxuries of land life. Noteably, this was also the first time in several months to wear a pair of jeans, and a jumper – all very weird! Unfortunately, we also picked up a rather nasty cold, which made the flight back to St Lucia after the regatta a bit of a marathon, and we spent several days trying to shake it off when we got back.
We were keen to leave St Lucia fairly promptly, and push on north. The day after we arrived back, we set off back to Le Marin in Martinique to re-provision on all the fresh bits, do some laundry and a few other boat jobs, before heading on to St Pierre, in the north of the Island. St Pierre sits at the bottom of Mount Pelée, and was formerly known as the “Paris of the Caribbean”. It was once the thriving cultural and economic capital of Martinique, but the entire town was destroyed on the 8th May 1902 when Mount Pelée erupted. The town was re-built, and is now a really pretty little spot, with loads of history to explore. There are ruins of the old theatre, and the old prison, where one of the few survivors in St Pierre on the day of the eruption was found. He’d been locked in a cell awaiting trial, and the this prison walls protected him from the ash and lava. Another highlight here was the zoo, which has been developed among the ruins of the old plantation house, and is really stunning, with beautiful gardens.
We’ve absolutely loved our time in Martinique, and we certainly plan to stop here again on our way back south at the end of our season here. For now, we’re getting ready to move on further north.
8th January 2020 – Barbados – The Grenadines – St Vincent
It took a day or two to recover from the crossing, and there was no better place for our recovery than Barbados. After our arrival in Port St Charles, we spent a morning turning the boat from an ocean going vessel back into something a bit more liveable, and enjoyed a lovely couple of days swimming, snorkelling, eating delicious Bajan food, and catching up on the world in general. Judith arrived on our third day and we’d planned to all meet in Bridgetown on the boat. We sailed an hour south, only to be recalled by customs over a clerical error, so after our false start, Dad went to Bridgetown with the local taxi man, and Marty and I sailed Ealu to Bridgetown the following morning. Highlights from Barbados were the Mount Gay Rum Tour (highly recommended!), the Barbados Yacht Club, who couldn’t have been more welcoming, and the Bajan people, who were unbelievably friendly.
From Barbados, we’d planned an overnight sail from Port St Charles to Bequia, to start our cruise around the Grenadines. After a lovely “last supper” at the yacht club, we left Barbados around 7pm to start the 90 mile crossing. We left into light following winds and a flattish sea – all good. However, a few miles offshore, the seas built into an absolutely heinous cross swell, and we were thrown around all over the place. The breeze was up and down, and there was plenty of shipping traffic, so it wasn’t the most peaceful of passages. We saw some miserable squalls of 35 knots and lashing rain, followed by flat calms, which in the nasty swell were just as uncomfortable as the squalls. I think we were all relieved as morning arrived and we could see St Vincent, and Bequia growing larger on the horizon. We arrived into Port Elizabeth, Bequia just after breakfast time, ready for a good sleep and some food!
After a really lovely couple of days in Bequia, we headed south to Mayreu, with a brief pause at Canoun for lunch. En route, we caught a small Jackfish, which Jude expertly cleaned and cooked up for dinner on our arrival at Saltwhistle Bay. Saltwhistle is a really pretty anchorage, surrounded by sandy beaches and palm trees, with brightly coloured shacks and fishing boats along the beach, with a great bar for our sun downers!
Marty enjoyed some excellent kite surfing with a bunch of other kiting cruisers on the windward beach – this was slightly overshadowed by a very unpleasant woman from the nearby resort, who really didn’t like kite surfers using the beach near her resort, but aside from that, it was a really lovely stop, with hundreds of pelicans splashing around.
From Mayreu, we made the short passage over to Tobago Cays – with out a doubt one of the most stunning places we’ve been. The small collection of islands is un-inhabited, and is a protected nature reserve, with turtles swimming among the moorings, and a beautiful reef for snorkelling. We seemed to have found our selves there during the “Christmas Winds”, and it was a steady 25 knots for a few days, but we didn’t let that stop us. We snorkelled on the Horseshoe Reef and saw all manner of wildlife, climbed the hill on Petite Bateau, and walked up Baradel to look for some Iguanas. We’d heard that if you shine a light into the water at night, you might see rays swimming by the boat, so we gave it a go and we weren’t disappointed – we watched 7 or 8 rays swimming under the boat, chasing the smaller fish, it was really very cool.
Next up was Union Island – we anchored up in the beautiful Chatham Bay to spend a night. Unfortunately, while absolutely stunning, the wind funnelled over the hills here, and sent huge gusts down across the anchorage. Affectionately referred to (we later heard) as “willywaws”, these gusts had the boats in the anchorage swinging wildly in all directions, and made the whole boat shake – not ideal for a restful nights sleep. No one needed much convincing to move on around to Clifton on the other side of the island, so we set off in search of a quieter spot. Clifton was an absolute hive of activity, with its colourful little high street, and shops, bars and restaurants at every turn. We ate delicious burgers in “The Local”, and found a brilliant little supermarket to re-stock some of our provisions. The Yacht Club in Clifton was a really nice spot, where we could enjoy real showers (still cold, but with proper running water!) and a very tasty rum punch.
Having got our fix of civilisation, we then headed off down Carriacou, to the very beautiful Anse le Roche on the north of the island. This tiny little bay was totally secluded, with only one other boat in the anchorage. The beach was absolutely pristine and unspoilt, and we did some amazing snorkelling around the rocks. The only minor hiccup here was that as we were all departing the boat to go for a swim, our anchor started to slip – a frantic swim back to the boat and lifting the anchor revealed that we’d snared a giant conch shell (complete with its own live-in octopus), so after we’d cleared our catch from the anchor, we re-set and all was well.
We moved on an hour south in the morning down to Sandy Island – a tiny little sliver of sand and palm trees off the coast of the main island – it really did look like all the postcards and brochures you’ve ever seen for the Caribbean! Another marine reserve, this island was also teeming with sealife, and we saw turtles, pelicans, and all manner of fish on the reefs at the end of the island.
By now, we were over half way through Dad and Jude’s stay with us, and it was time to start working our way back up towards St Vincent. We decided to call in again at Chatham Bay, to try out the legendary beach BBQ by Vanessa and Secky. We were treated to an absolutely delicious meal of lobster, chicken, ribs, rice, salads, potatoes and plantain fritters, along with their tasty but deadly rum punch.
We’d planned to be in Bequia for Christmas, as we knew there would be plenty of other cruisers around, so from Chatham Bay, we undertook a long up wind slog back to Port Elizabeth against the tide. Our initial passage plan of 4 hours went out the window, and some 7 hours later we dropped anchor back in a very busy Bequia. A quick trip to Jacks Bar for their rosemary salt fries and a well earned beer, and we were all ready for bed!
Christmas in the Caribbean was a very weird experience – the Christmas music sounds so out of place among the palm trees and sunshine. On Christmas Eve, I felt very homesick and felt very far away from our families and friends enjoying the festivities at home. That evening we met some other cruisers on the floating “Bar 1”, and we all went out for pizza and beers which took the edge of the homesickness.
We definitely felt quite smug that our Christmas morning swim was probably much warmer than every one at home, and we spent Christmas morning calling home, and making pancakes for breakfast. For lunch, the cruisers in the area had organised a “pot luck” lunch – one of the local restaurants kindly lent their BBQ, and every one brought along a dish to share. There were about 80 people there, and it was a really great way to meet other people and enjoy Christmas the Caribbean way.
After Christmas, we made our way up St Vincent, and it was time to say good bye to Dad and Jude, who were flying home. We set up in Blue Lagoon marina to wave them off. It felt very weird saying good bye, Dad had been with us for nearly 7 weeks now including a week in Tenerife, the Atlantic crossing and the three weeks with Jude in the Grenadines, so the boat suddenly felt very empty.
After we said our goodbyes, Marty and I sailed on north, passing Wallilabou, where most of the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, and stopping into the the very scenic Cumberland Bay. This will be our final stop in St Vincent, before we move on to St Lucia, and the next stage of our Caribbean adventure.
With our sub 24 hour pit stop in Cape Verde over, we set off in absolutely perfect conditions for our trip west. As we slipped out of Mindello between the Islands of Sao Vincente and and Santo Anteo, we had 25 knots from astern, and lovely rolling waves to send us on our way. We also had a small collection of other boats all leaving around the same time, and it was comforting to know that we’d got some company as we set out.
Unfortunately, these champagne conditions didn’t stick round long, and as the sun set for our first night, the wind died away to nothing, and we sat rolling around in the swell for several hours. We eventually took down the main to stop the incessant flopping from side to side, and made very slow head way under the jib until the wind returned the following morning.
For the next couple of days, it was much more “business as usual”, with a sunny 15 – 20 knots of wind pushing us along. The trickiest bit of those first few days was managing the early passage anxieties – including, but not limited to: What if we hit something? What if we lost the steering? What if we start sinking? What if we lose the electronics? What if some one gets ill? What if I give everyone food poisoning? What if some one falls overboard? Etc etc….Fortunately, as more time passed without catastrophe, and the daily routines became established, the anxieties subsided into something a bit more manageable, and time moved on.
We were also super excited to see some Dolphins – we saw one pod a couple of days out from Cape Verde, who played along side the boat for a while. We also had a couple of night time visits, and they looked very cool with all the phosphorescence as they splashed around on our bow wave.
Day 5 was particularly notable, as the first of the two assigned Shower Days – great excitement! By “shower”, I mean that we each had roughly 5 litres of fresh water allocated to us, warmed nicely in the little camping solar shower on deck – by usual standards, not quite a shower, however after 5 days of salt, suncream, flying fish attacks etc, it was more than welcome, and we all relished the feeling of being clean for at least a few hours.
Day 7 was the official half way day, and we crossed the 1000 mile mark. As we passed that milestone in the middle of the night, we didn’t really do much to mark the occasion – but we celebrated with a delicious breakfast of bacon and baked beans in the morning!
They do say that spending time at sea is a good way to learn more about people, and this proved very true in our case, when Marty whipped up no less than three fresh loaves of bread en route. Our secret baker then further surprised us with fresh home-made pizzas – he’s kept this talent well hidden up until now, but now the secret is out.
Days 8 – 14
Day 8 was a funny old day – we had very light winds and rain in the morning, with the wind coming from the west – not what we’d been looking for! The rain soon disappeared, but the wind was taking it’s time to materialise. We took advantage of our becalming by going for a quick swim off the back of the boat, with a long line and a fender. The novelty of having a swim 1000 miles from land, in 5000 metres of water was pretty exciting, until the inevitable thought crept in that essentially you’re now just the rather large lure for all the sea monsters lurking nearby, and we scampered out very quickly, feeling refreshed.
We had mixed success with fishing on the trip. For the first few days, the swell was too large for us to fish comfortably, and the fridge and ice box was so full of food that we had no space to keep it, so we only really fished in the second half of the passage. The first time the reel went off, it shot out the back of the boat at high speed, with the rod bending at all sorts of mad angles. The line suddenly snapped, and what ever we’d hooked was gone, along with our favourite lure. The breaking load on the line was 320lbs (about 180kg), so what ever we’d caught was clearly enormous, and I’m not sure we’d have had room for this one on board anyway!
The second time wasn’t much more successful, although this time the blame fell squarely on some poorly tied knots. Another fish and lure lost, and most irritatingly, my favourite hat was also sacrificed during the proceedings.
Third time lucky as they say, and we reeled in a beautiful little Albacore – the perfect size for three people for dinner. By this stage, we’d started to run low on the fresh meat, so the fish was a very welcome update to the dinner menu, and we enjoyed the freshest of fresh fish with our few remaining potatoes.
We spent much of our days playing Sudoku to varying levels of success, doing crosswords, and reading. By this stage in the trip, I’d read everything on board, including a Maintenance Manual for Diesel Engines (very practical, but I suspect that this will remain more Marty’s area than mine) a Sea Survival Tactics book – note, this does not make for good bed time reading when roughly 1000 miles from land in any direction – and the Cruisers Guide to Fishing – this did come in handy when dealing with the aforementioned Albacore! With hindsight, a glaring omission from our reading materials was any sort of book on the Stars and Astronomy, which would in fact have been very handy – the stars were truly awesome. And I don’t mean in the “I had an AWESOME burger for lunch” kind of way, I mean the truly vast, make you feel really really tiny kind of awesome. As it was, we did much pointing out of Orion and his belt, and the Big Dipper, which seemed to be about the limit of our astronomical expertise.
Marty also passed the time battling the War on Amps – when it comes to battery management, Marty could probably write an entire post on the battery management, solar outputs, amp hours, watts etc etc – but it’s a bit techy and not that exciting, so I’ll just let him tell you all about it another time!
Other night time incidents included a series of vicious assaults on the crew by the Flying Fish. Dad was the first victim and took a direct hit to the chest, while Marty and I escaped with more minor blows to the legs at various stages of the passage. The worst was yet to come though, and at 2am on the 12th day, an especially vicious attacker stormed the deck, and hit me square in the face, prompting a dramatic yelp which had Marty and Dad running for the companionway.
Those little guys are very persistent, and our daily Rig & Deck check included clearing the decks of the previous nights intruders. This search was extended in the second half of the trip to include downstairs in the cabin, after one particularly intrepid individual managed to make his way into the kitchen sink, which was at that time experiencing very light usage, in light of our strict water rations.
Day 10 was particularly significant as our second allocated shower day – it may seem like a small thing, but there are no words to explain how much of a morale boost this was! By now, every one was starting to get a bit tired of the long night watches, we’d had a very rolly couple of nights and were fed up of being all salty and suncreamy, so the chance to freshen up a bit did wonders for the team spirit!
Day 11 marked the passing of the “500 miles to go” mark. This key mile stone meant that we probably had less than 4 days to go, and we all started dreaming of real showers, fresh vegetables (you really miss those after a few days!) and clean clothes
Days 12 – 13 passed reasonably uneventfully, which in reality is exactly what you want on a long ocean passage! We hit record times for completion of a sudoku puzzle, and completed the entire book of crosswords, and generally counted down to our scheduled arrival day. The only minor piece of excitement was when the eye on the mast for the spinnaker pole sheared off, and the pole suddenly became a flailing spear, clipped on to the end of the jib sheet poled out to windward. Once we’d successfully lashed that back to the mast, we continued as before. Incidentally, this was the only breakage of the entire trip, largely thanks to Marty’s dedication to our preparations and maintenance along the way – top work!
The other notable occurrence was the arrival of the much anticipated squalls – we’d been warned to expect them as we approached the islands, and we were not disappointed. In the space of a few hours, 4 or 5 squalls rolled through, bringing wind and rain in abundance. The wind speed topped out at 38 knots, but quickly dropped to almost nothing and swung around all over the place for an hour or so – until the next one turned up! Once piece of advice we’d received was “if you can’t see the stars, reef!” – which turned out to be very true. The squalls crept up in the dark, and we found ourselves scrambling for the reefing lines, only for it all to be over before we’d finished. Fortunately, these only really caught us in our final 48 hours, so we escaped fairly unscathed, although now very wary of large dark clouds!
Day 14 – we arrived! Roughly 30 miles offshore, we first spotted a tiny dot of land on the horizon. As the day went on, the dot got larger and larger, and we could practically taste the rum. We’d ideally hoped to arrive in daylight, but the winds weren’t quite playing ball, so it was just after nightfall when we eventually dropped the anchor at Port St Charles in the north of island of Barbados. The port officials seemed to have disappeared for the evening, which meant we couldn’t leave the boat, so we whipped up some pasta, and crashed out for our first full night of sleep in three weeks. I can confirm that it was as good as you’d expect – with out a doubt the best sleep I’ve ever had.
We checked in with out incident in the morning, and went ashore for our first meal and to get some wifi to see what had happened in the world after the last 3 weeks. The plans from here now involve a few days in Barbados, before the 80 mile passage over to St Vincent and the Grenadines, where we’ll spend the next couple of weeks.
Thursday 21st November – Canaries to Cape Verdes Islands
We set off from Tenerife bound for Cape Verdes bright and early on Saturday morning. Full of enthusiasm (and breakfast), we cast off around 8:30am into a light northerly breeze. We’d been expecting a light patch until we get clear of the island and it’s enormous volcano, so we motored out until we found the breeze. 25 knots from the North East kicked in fairly quickly, and we reefed down the main, and settled in for the next few days.
The forecasts had all suggested that we’d have 20 – 25 knot NE wind all the way, and we were not disappointed – for 5 days and 5 hours, we had steady breeze from behind us, and we were pointing almost directly for Mindelo, in Sao Vincente.
As seems to be the norm for us, we started the passage with huge rolly swell, which made the first couple of days quite challenging. For the first day I didn’t feel too bad, and hoped that I might have got away without my usual 48 hours of seasickness, but sadly not, and on the second day, I felt truely miserable. However, the most seasick crew member award definitely goes to Dad, who spent the first 48 hours either clinging to the rail, or in bed – there was no in-between! Fortunately, as is usually the way, we all settled in to the rhythm of boat life after the first couple of days, the seasickness faded away, and we could get on with the trip. Having learnt from my previous legs, this time around I had food for at least three days cooked and prepared in advance, which meant this time around, a quick heat up on the stove would produce hot meals in a few minutes, without the need to hanging out downstairs for too long!
It was a bit of a lonely trip – the only other boat(s) we saw were a large tug towing a container ship very very slowly towards Gibraltar – by our calculations at their speed of 1.3 knots, they’d be on their way for another month! Other than that, we were on our own. Even the wildlife seemed to have deserted us, and we had a disappointing lack of dolphins on this passage. Dad and Marty did spot a pod of large white whales heading north, and we found a couple of turtles drifting along. That said, we seemed to attract a considerable amount of flying fish, and we spent the last two nights dodging them as they launched themselves into the boat. Marty was convinced that one had managed to get into the aft cabin, and came in rooting around for it at 4 am. We never found that one, but in the morning the deck was covered with it’s friends, along with a tiny baby squid.
On the third day, some ominous cracking and creaking noises started coming from what sounded like the rudder. We spent a nervous couple of hours trying to identify the cause of the noise, and pulled the aft cabin apart to get a better look at everything. The culprit turned out to be some of the plastic combing was rubbing and compressing against some fibreglass on the bulkhead, and nothing to do with the rudder. Much relieved, we shook out a reef, and continued careering downwind at 9 knots towards Cape Verdes.
Other trip highlights include a new speed record for Èalù of 17.3 knots which Marty put in down one particularly large wave, and some roast potatoes on Tuesday evening!
As we’d managed to sail down slightly quicker than we’d planned, the Arc Plus boats were getting ready to depart Mindelo for their Atlantic crossing as we approached, and we watched them as they disappeared over the horizon. It was a very sunny day, and a perfect day to start the long leg to the Carribbean! Fingers crossed for more of the same for us when we depart again today. We’re off to do a quick re-stock for the fridge, fill up the tanks and get ready to cast off again this afternoon – next stop Barbados!
With regard to our tracker, so far we have learnt that it checks in once a day, usually sometime between 10am and midday, and updates our position, so we will continue to try and do that for the next leg.
After our Lagos – Lanzarote crossing, we arrived into a sheltered little anchorage at La Graciosa – a small island just north of Lanzarote’s mainland. We didn’t stay long – the lure of a marina with fresh food, hot showers where the water didn’t run out and dry land was just too strong, so we made our way another couple of hours south to Arrecife. Our berth was mere metres away from a Burger King, so a couple of Whoppers later, we set about putting the boat back into shape after a few days at sea. We now had to start thinking seriously about the jobs list for the next few weeks, so we put together a long list of items, and started trawling the local chandlers for supplies – Marty’s new favourite pass time!
Lanzarote is small enough that with a car, you can see most of the Island in a day, and we managed to squeeze in a tour through the Volcanos in Timanfaya national park, a trip through a lava tunnel (I won’t ruin the surprise, but well worth a visit!), and a visit to a black sand beach. The landscape in Lanzarote feels like you’re on the moon, and there was little to no greenery to be seen. After exploring further north to Orzola, we stopped into a Pirate museum on a large hill, where we read all about the Canary Islands unfortunate history with the pirates of the world! While we had use of a car, we stocked up on a few supplies, checked out the local Decathlon (essential visit for all stops on our journey!), and made general preparations for our planned departure to Fuerteventura – our next stop.
We departed for Fuerteventura, and arrived into beautiful anchorage on Isla de Lobos – Island of the Wolves, we were told. The water was unbelievably clear, and the most gorgeous turquoise colour, so as soon as we arrived, we hopped in for a swim, and tested out the new snorkel gear, fresh out of Decathlon on Lanzarote! The BBQ got another outing, and there was just us and one other boat to enjoy the sunset. We spent a couple of days swimming, SUPing, and generally lazing about in the sun, and then motored over to the tiny, chaotic little marina in Corralejo, where we met up with some former work buddies of Marty’s for a drink, and found the local Indian restaurant – Marty may shortly start his own blog on Indian restaurants around the world!
From there, we made a brief pit stop in Gran Tarajal to patch up the main sail (the sewing machine has been an invaluable addition to our inventory!) and few other little maintenance tasks, then made our way to Morro Jable, which seemed like a good jumping off point for the slightly longer crossing to Gran Canaria. However, the Anchorage we’d stopped in was very rolly, and shortly before 3am, Marty decided that he’d had enough, so he pulled up the anchor, and started our journey a few hours earlier than planned! The upside of this was that I had a small pod of dolphins to keep me company on my dawn watch, and we had plenty of wind, so we zipped along nicely, arriving into Pesito Blanco marina shortly after lunch. We had an interesting time “med mooring” in 30 knots, but the marina was excellent, and after we were safely tied up, we wandered over to the nearby beach for a swim and a nap.
Whilst in Gran Canaria, one of the highlights was a hike out to Roque Nublo, in the national park. The scenery was absolutely stunning, and we had a white knuckle drive up the steep windy roads through the mountains. We both felt better for getting out to stretch the legs properly after a few days on the boat.
We were in a bit of a hurry through Gran Canaria, so our next stop was Mogán, which was absolutely beautiful! Mogán is a really pretty little fishing village, and we moored up on the town quay, and wandered around the pretty streets, with all the brightly coloured flowers and the little bridges. I’d have loved to have stayed longer – but in this case, time and tide wait for no man (or woman), so the next day we were off again, en route to Tenerife, where we would be spending a few weeks, and doing all our final preparations for the Atlantic crossing.
As usual in the Canaries, we had plenty of breeze, and we made the 50 mile passage in about 7 hours. We stopped in the Marina San Miguel, where we tied up and were met by friends from Dublin, just finishing their holiday, and called in en route to the airport. Such a treat to see some familiar faces on the dock!
We hired a car for a couple of days to explore the island, stopping at Los Cristianos, where they have imported “golden” sand from the desert to replace the black sand. We saw the enormous cliffs at Los Gigantes, and took a drive up to Santa Cruz for a wander around the capital.
We then left Eàlù for a week, while we went to Valencia for the Melges 32 Worlds. We had an amazing time catching up with friends, some great racing, and enjoying the luxuries of life on land for a few days!
Feeling a bit tired and emotional, we had a 6 am flight back to Tenerife, and were glad to find Eàlù still sat happily on the marina. Yet another friend from Dublin was on holiday in Las Americas, so we headed out there for the afternoon to catch up and enjoy a couple of sundowners.
The list of jobs was growing longer by the day, and eventually we decided we’d have to tackle one of the larger ones sooner rather than later – our front starboard window had been leaking, so we needed to remove the whole window, clean off the old seals and re-seal. This took HOURS! But, after giving it a good test with the hose, it seemed to work, and the boat should hopefully remain dry!
Whilst in Tenerife, Marty had booked us in to do a free diving course, in the north of the Island. A little unsure what to expect, we drove up and met our Hungarian instructor Mate, and before we knew it we were in funny suits, and in the swimming pool with weights strapped around our waists. That afternoon, we headed out to the sea, and tried to put the theory into practice. The course was excellent, and we spent almost 3 days learning our breathing, swimming and rescue techniques. As usual, Marty decided to push the boundaries a little further than required, and decided to take himself down to 20 metres before he was quite ready – so we had an afternoon off, and had to come back a couple of days later to finish our Level one course! But it was really great, we learnt so much, and had loads of fun – so another trip to decathlon required to buy more toys! Eàlù is definitely sitting a little lower in the water than before with all the new additions to the toy cupboard……
Other Tenerife highlights included a very hot, but very scenic hike up Roque del Conde – the same height as Snowden, only infinitely hotter! The views were stunning. We also drove the beautiful road to Masca, down the steep valley and into the old village, which really did look like something you’d find in Machu Pichu! We had friends Frank and Emma over to visit us for a few days too, which was excellent! We spent a fabulous weekend sailing, swimming, eating and drinking, and all too quickly it was time for them to go home, and Dad and Jude arrived for us to begin our final preparations for the crossing, which at this stage was only one week away!
Our final visitors in Tenerife joined us with their 9 week old baby, Thanks to Pa, Edel and baby Claire for providing a welcome distraction from all the boat work.
Our final week has been a complete blur of boat work, rig checks, provisioning, spares inventories, cleaning, packing, route planning, meal planning, etc etc. Dad and Jude were both put to work to, and between us, we’ve got everything ship shape and ready to go. We had a bit of a “moment” this evening when we discovered the bilges full of water, and found that two of our emergency water containers had leaked most of their contents all over the boat…. A quick sponge out, and a re-fill of the containers and we’re all good to go!
As is often the way in boat life, we had a slight change of plan, and have decided to call into the Cape Verde islands, instead of heading directly across to Barbados. This has made things much easier, both from a practical sense (we can top up with fuel and water etc), and from an anxiety perspective! It’s been much easier to mentally prepare myself for 6 days to the CVs, and then a further 12 -14 days to Barbados – the original plan for roughly 21 days at sea was a bit of a challenge for me!
So we’re now basically ready to go, and settling in for our final night here, before we head off first thing tomorrow morning. We’re expecting a decent 20 + knot northerly tomorrow, so we’re aiming for a 6 or 7 day passage to Mindelo, Cape Verde.
13th October 2019: Lisbon – Sines – Lagos – Canaries
After we left Éalú in Lisbon, we flew to the UK to visit family, and attend a wedding – thanks for having us Holly and Rob! We then flew to La Zenia, Spain, to see more family, before a spin up to Barcelona for some racing in the Melges 32 World Series. We relished every moment of life on land – hot showers whenever we wanted – even a bath or two! Eating any sort of food we wanted, rather than what we happened to have left in the fridge, and big, comfy beds that don’t move around! We thoroughly enjoyed every one of those luxuries!
We were nevertheless delighted to get back to the boat in Doca de Belem, and see that she was still sat happily on her cradle. We landed in Lisbon at 10pm on the Saturday, and by 8am on Sunday morning, we were suited up, and ready to get started with the anti-fouling. We’d originally intended to do this in the Canaries, however as we’d had her lifted out here, it made sense to get it done now. This time around, we’d saved ourselves a whole lot of bother by washing, scraping and sanding the bottom of the hull before we left. This meant she just needed another quick check for any more flaky bits of old paint, and we were good to go. We spent a very sticky couple of hours in rather fetching, but definitely not breathable protective suits, and the first coat was on and drying by 10am. After a quick cup of tea and chocolate croissant, we attacked the second coat, and were all done by lunch time. The afternoon plans involved re-stocking the fridge, however to our dismay, we discovered that the fridge was no longer working, so instead we spent the day frantically trying to find some one who could fix it for us.
The following day, we were back in the water, and made our way back to Oeiras Marina, with fridge still broken, and no option of fixing it until we reached Lagos in a few days time. We spent the day putting the boat back together after our absence – re-connecting solar, washing, re-fuelling, fresh water, etc etc. We left Oeiras early on Tuesday morning, to begin our passage to Sines, some 50 miles further south. The passage passed peacefully, and we had the best dolphin display yet – a huge pod of about 25 dolphins, who kept us company for about half an hour. From Sines, we pushed on south around the impressive Cape St. Vincent (affectionately known as “the corner”, this is the most southwesterly point in mainland Europe) and along the coast to Lagos. As we rounded the corner, the wind piped up to a very welcome 20 knots, and we zipped along to Lagos in time for sundowners on the dock.
Lagos was a favourite stop of ours, and we were thrilled to be able to catch up with some family friends who live there. We walked out around Pointe de Piedade, and enjoyed the many lovely restaurants etc that the local town had to offer – one of the benefits of having a broken fridge! The marina was full of boats heading the same way as us, and we caught up with a few familiar faces that we’d met on the way down – it’s always lovely when paths cross again! We got incredibly lucky with regard to the fridge repairs – Paul Kent and Davide were absolute legends, and had us up and running again in no time. The best part of the fridge fiasco was that the original cold plate for our fridge wasn’t available, however an alternative part could be sourced that day – and this piece had a tiny little freezer cubby! Once everything was up and running, we were absolutely delighted to be able to now make ice, and freeze fresh meat and fish – this has now revolutionised our meal planning and provisioning for the Atlantic crossing – and means we now have no excuse for warm beers!
All too soon, it was time for us to depart, and begin the 585 mile passage from Lagos down to Lanzarote – the most northerly of the Canary Islands. The weather forecast looked breezy, but all from the right direction, and with a solid window of about 6 or 7 days, we set off on Saturday morning. As we motored out, we wondered if we’d some how got it horribly wrong – instead of the 15 knot northerly, we had 2 knots from the south! However the wind quickly swung around, and rapidly built to a brisk 25 knots, which had us zipping along at about 8 – 10 knots. We set a new daily record for Ealu, at 182 miles in the first 24 hours. There was a nasty swell left over from Hurricane Lorenzo, which had crossed the Atlantic some days previously. This made boat life quite uncomfortable for the first couple of days. Going downstairs for any length of time resulted in almost immediate sea sickness, and any sort of cooking was a huge challenge. One unfortunately timed opening of a cupboard saw the entire set of plates and cups ejected across the cabin, and the tea that I’d just made disappearing into the bilges, and I wondered (not entirely for the first time) what on earth we were doing, and why I was putting myself through this! We ate mostly cereals and chocolate bars, until we were able to manage anything more substantial.
As we moved south, the sea gradually flattened out somewhat, and the wind remained, and we flew down in 3 days, and 11 hours. We saw two rather lost looking turtles, and a couple of large ships as we approached the Canaries, but aside from that, it was a lonely passage, without many other boats. I was hugely relived to arrive into a sheltered little anchorage at La Graciosa – a small island just north of Lanzarote mainland, where we treated ourselves to a hot shower, and an un-interrupted nights sleep.
From here, we plan to spend a few weeks exploring the Canary Islands, and preparing for our Atlantic Crossing, which is rapidly creeping up on us!
Since our last post, we seem to have crammed quite a lot in! After we had recovered in La Coruna from our Biscay crossing, we headed south – our first passage was a long-ish 80 miles down to Muros. We received a very warm welcome from Pedro in the marina, and we spent a couple of days enjoying the local tapas, and exploring the town and beaches.
We then pushed on further south to one of our favourite pit stops so far, in the Ciés Islands, just off the coast of Vigo. This small group of islands is a protected nature reserve, and we needed to secure cruising and anchoring permits before we arrived. With all the necessary paper work done, we anchored up and spent a really wonderful 3 days exploring the islands via the walking trails, and enjoying the beautiful white sandy beaches – we’d highly recommend a visit to the islands for anyone passing through the North West of Spain! On our final night there, we pottered over to the main land, to another beautiful anchorage, where we met another Irish boat and shared a beer and a chat, and did a good SUP around the bay.
While in Cies, Marty decided to investigate the squeeky steering we seemed to have picked up half way across the bay of Biscay, in usual fashion the boat was turned upside down and inside out, and the steering cables were found to be at fault and needed to be re-greased.
A little reluctantly, we left the Ciés, and set course for Viana do Castelo, which was to be our first stop in Portugal. Shortly after our departure, the thickest fog I have ever seen set in, and stayed with us for the entire duration of the passage to Viana. At times we could only see roughly 2 or 3 meters in front of the boat, so we took turns at watching out for the little lobster pots off the bow, and watching the AIS for any approaching ships (or other boats). We spent a rather tense half an hour listening to another vessel’s fog signals, although we couldn’t see him, either on the AIS, or with our eyes. When we could no longer hear it, and we hadn’t been run over by anything, we concluded that we were probably ok! After a nerve wracking 6 hours, the charts told us that we had arrived at the river mouth, although we couldn’t see either side of the entrance.
We motored very slowly up the river, and suddenly emerged from the fog bank into blinding sunshine, and a rather busy fishing port. We got all our paper work done checking in to Portugal, and then spent a pleasant afternoon with a neighbouring French boat – there was much google translating, and pictures shown, but I think we just about managed to understand each other, and we shared a very tasty bottle of the local wine, before a quick exploration of the town and an early night! We were a little disappointed not to have more time in Viana, as the old town looked like it had plenty to see, and the cable car up the hill would have been a nice adventure – hopefully we’ll make it back there one day to do a proper exploration.
Probably the stop I’d been most looking forward to along this coast was Porto. We stayed in a marina a little further out of town, and caught the train into Porto city. The first port of call was a Port Wine Tasting at the Ferriera Wine Caves, which was excellent! We also did a walking tour with “An Irishman in Porto”, Caoimhin from Tallaght, who was brilliant – we got a whistlestop tour of the very impressive city, and spent a really nice day seeing all the sights. Highly recommend!
From there, we had an uneventful sail to Figuera da Foz – we arrived late, went to bed, and set off again early the next morning, so not much to report there!
Our next stop was in Nazaré – famous for the largest waves in the world, and very highly regarded among the surfing community. We spent a really lovey couple of days in the colourful old fishing town, and took the cable car up to the old town, walked out to the cliffs, where we found a surfing museum in the old lighthouse, and enjoyed the beaches and the €1 beers.
From Nazaré, we went to Cascais, a pretty fishing town on the outskirts of Lisbon. The marina was full, so we anchored in the bay, which turned out to be absolutely perfect. Our friends Dara and Siobhan joined us for a day after a wedding they attended in Lisbon, and there was much swimming, eating and drinking done!
We spent a few days at anchor in the bay, before heading further up the river towards Lisbon, where we stopped in Oeiras Marina – by far my favourite Marina of the trip so far! Every morning we had fresh baked bread delivered to the boat, and we had access to the lovely swimming pool. Getting into Lisbon was easy from here, and we caught the train to the centre. Another walking tour showed us the highlights of the Alfama and Mouraria districts of Lisbon – we will be going back to explore the other districts! We also hired bikes, and cycled the 10km from Oeiras to Belem, to see the famous tower, the monastery, and the Maritime Museum. There is so much to see in Lisbon, and we definitely didn’t have enough time to see it all – we’ll be going back for sure.
Èalù is currently in the boat yard in Belem, where she’s been lifted out of the water for a good clean and antifoul before we head out to the Canary Islands. We were having some small issues with the engine and getting water to the engine for cooling, Marty had stripped the cooling raw water system twice in search of the issue, upon lifting the boat, it all became very clear what the issue was, a rubber glove had got sucked into the cooling water intake and blocked the whole system up.
We’ve left her there for a couple of weeks while we visit family and friends, and do a few days of some different sailing, so the adventure will continue at the beginning of October as we make our last couple of stops in Mainland Europe, and make the passage out to the Canary Islands to explore, and begin our final preparations for the Atlantic Crossing.
After a very enjoyable week racing and socializing at the (in)famous Calves Week Regatta in Schull, Neilo met us on Sunday evening, and we were all set for an early morning departure to La Coruna.
We left at
6am in a cool North Westerly breeze, which saw us shooting out past the Fastnet
Rock in no time. We had an escort of Dolphins on the way to see us off, and we
made great progress, with 142 miles under our belts in the first 24 hours.
forecasts had shown that we could expect some bad weather on Tuesday evening,
so we cooked up a meal in advance, and put away anything that was likely to be
crashing around if it got rough. True to the forecast, the wind swung around so
that it was coming from the Southwest, and built all day, until around 9pm,
when it really blew up, and we battled through about 12 hours of 30 knots and
big swell. Even though I’ve done plenty of sailing in winds much stronger,
there was something much more scary about knowing it was our own boat, with all
our worldly possessions on board, and at least 150 miles from the nearest point
settled down a bit on Wednesday morning, and over the course of the day, the
breeze dropped off, and we were left with the big lumpy waves for a few more
hours. This led to a few sea sick moments, and in general I think at this stage
we all felt very tired, and a bit green.
wise, Wednesday night was fairly calm, although we had busy night dodging ships
and fishing boats as we inched closer to the Spanish coast.
On Thursday morning, after a brief period of a light breeze behind us an the spinnaker up, the wind died entirely, and we had to switch on the engine. The sea had eventually flattened out, and we were able to finally eat a decent meal again (fresh baked bread rolls with some bacon and scrambled eggs), and put the boat back into some sort of order. Neilo then cooked up a Tapas feast in anticipation of our arrival to Spain, and we had our first, well deserved beer of the trip.
Just as we were all settling down to a little siesta and a quiet afternoon watch, our new fishing line which had been trailing over the back suddenly went off, and we all leapt into action. Without the faintest idea what to do with a fish, we eventually managed to reel in a beautiful tuna – our first catch! After a very quick search through our rather limited fishing library, we worked out how to kill the fish, and quickly filleted it on the deck. Definitely more practice required! A very short while later, we had the very freshest tuna and some veggies whipped up, for a delicious dinner.
After all the excitement, we all had one more night watch to complete, before our anticipated arrival in to La Coruna in the early hours of Friday morning. As is usually the way with boat life, the last few miles actually took much longer than planned, and we eventually arrived into La Coruna at 4am on Friday morning – 3 days and 22 hours after leaving Schull. We tied up the boat in the marina, and went immediately to bed for some much needed sleep.
The following morning, we woke up, and all enjoyed our first shower in 4 days – I’ve never been so grateful for a hot shower in my life. Feeling like a new woman, we went and found some breakfast, and made our plans for the day.
La Coruna has a small little Old Town, and we walked out along the beach to the Torre de Hercules, and then ambled around the Old Town, stopping for Ice creams, beers, and tapas along the way, We eventually made our way back to the Marina, where we sampled the local sangria, and after another round of tapas, retired to bed for our first full nights sleep in a week.
Neil left us early that morning to fly to Barcelona, and Marty and I got started on the list of boat jobs. We walked to the nearby chandlery for a few boat essentials, and found a large supermarket to re-stock the fridge – and indulged in more ice cream and tapas.
We didn’t quite have the start we’d planned to our trip, and due to a family situation, I spent the first week of our planned trip at home with my family, while Marty did all the final jobs, and got the boat ready to leave.
I flew back to Dublin on the evening of 29th July, and we set off from Greystones at 6am on the morning of the 30th. We left the harbour, and were met with a 30 knot northerly breeze, and big waves. We had originally intended to sail the 14ish hours to Dunmore East, but in light of the conditions, we decided to sail the slightly shorter trip to Kilmore Quay, and stop there for the night. After a couple of hours, and with very little sail up, we settled into the swing of things, and finally managed to get some food into us. We reached Kilmore Quay around 5pm that evening, and after a quick ice cream pit stop, we settled in for the night, with another early start planned for the following day.
The following morning, we left Kilmore Quay in a light breeze, to make the short passage to Dunmore East. We arrived in glorious sunshine, and anchored off the beach for the afternoon. Ross, Lynda and the girls arrived that afternoon, and we swam, paddleboarded and ate more ice cream.
We spent the next few days making a couple more hops down the east coast, slowly making our way to Schull, where we planned to stay for a week. After Dunmore, we stopped in Kinsale and Glandore, where we spent a very bumpy night, before our final windy sail into Schull. Safely on our mooring in Schull harbour, we then spent the week sailing and socialising during the now infamous “Calves Week regatta. We enjoyed the week racing on the mighty Rockabill VI, and had a thoroughly enjoyable few days. I was blown away by the kindness and generosity shown to us over the last few days – from hot showers (and hair dryers!), the offer of a bed ashore for a wet and windy night, and the loan of a car to do all our provisioning, we were very grateful for all the help and support from our friends – thank you all!
We spent the day on Friday preparing for our first long passage on Éalú – our planned departure for La Coruna in the north west of Spain was Monday 12th. We filled up with water and diesel, stocked up the boat with enough food for three people to last 6 days, and downloaded charts and weather forecasts for the coming days so that we could finalise our passage plan and routing. We’re very fortunate to have a third crew member joining us for the crossing to La Coruna, so we were looking forward to Neilo arriving on Sunday night. The weather forecast looks good for the week, and we were aiming to complete the 500 mile trip in approximately 5 days.
In the meantime, we’ve loaded up on podcasts, books for the kindle and movies for the ipad before we go!