Sunday, December 03, 2006


Captain JP is moving at last!

I've have been too busy to post for the last few weeks and I don't think unpacking will be much easier - so this might be the last update till xmas. It's not helped by BT being unbelievably slow in connecting the new build flat to broadband.

In the mean time a show of how it's possible to make an ocean yacht race viewer without the hassle - get Google Earth to do the hard work for you as was done by the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). Check out their web site where you can download the kml files for the fleet and also grib data, which when loaded looks something like this:

This should be required viewing for the less than professional crew behind the Velux 5 Oceans site. I've sort of lost interest in that race, especially with both Golding and Thomson are now out of the running - even if the drama on both boats did temporarily raised its profiles.

Though again the best way to follow events was by either the Mike Golding or Yachting World sites - the former of which included a (free) video of the abandonment of Hugo Boss and interview by Elaine Bunting who had to think of what to say to Mike who must feel he is under some sort of sailing curse.

I'm finding it more fun to follow the Arc which brings back memories of doing the crossing in 2003. My old boat, Ocean Wandering, is repeating its annual migration - as is another boat we remember from 2003 called Steamy Windows, now with a new owner and skipper.

From the emails coming back it sounds like there is some great trade wind sailing go on.

Something to dream over from a stormy center of London, surrounded by packing boxes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Following the 5 Oceans

Frustrated at being unable to follow the 5 Oceans? Unable to get the official web site to work? Fear not! Here is your cut out and keep (Blog lawyer: you can't say that!) - ok your print out and keep tool-kit to following the fleet to Fremantle.

Firstly head to Mike Golding's web site to get the rankings and positions, like this:
The top four are in South Atlantic and last three close to the equator. The DTL closing is clearly out, but it looks like Mike is falling behind. Checking the tracks it appears Alex Thomson is heading as if towards the wrong Cape - towards the Horn not Hope.

To understand both these, lets check out the weather down there. On Stormsurfing this is the forecast for tomorrow morning.

The leading boat's progress is blocked by a high. Bernard Stamm is close to getting out the other side. Alex Thomson is thinking of heading around the high to the west - which could be a smart move. If you run the animation you can see the high drifting east, following Stamm, breathing down his neck - which can't be a good thing.

To find out how each of the skippers are doing, check out their respective sites:

- Mike Goldings knows he's got problems - Stamm ahead and Alex out-flaking him.

- Alex Thomson's listening to Snow Patrol and Razorlight and plotting his route west

- Bernard Stamm is writing in French. I can't understand it without really concentrating....

- Kojiro Shiraishi is writing in Japanese. I really can't understand it at all!

- Graham Dalton is not writing on his site - any ideas if he is anywhere else?

- Robin Knox-Johnson hasn't written for a bit - but there's a reason for that....

Robin Knox-Johnson is having problems - there's a series of stories on the Yachting World site, including him:
- having a Chinese gybe
- reporting all the battens in his main broken
- struggling with modern technology

The last is a fascinating insight into how sailing has changed since Robin was in "A world of my own". The old school sailor is having to adjust to the modern technology of grib files downloaded by satellite rather than simply tapping at the barometer and peering at the sky.

But one thing hasn't changed for Knox-Johnston - the wee dram of whisky.

See - all that coverage, and not need to go to the official site.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Butterflies And Hurricanes

There's a great video on Bernard Stamm's web site of Cheminees Poujoula storming along - and the musics not bad too. Turns out Stamm is a Muse fan, and it's that classic track "Butterflies And Hurricanes".

A good choice - one of those to add to the rough weather mix. I took it on the delivery from Lisbon to Gibraltar, but it's not really fine weather chill out music.

The lyrics are pretty appropriate for a round the world sailor:

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called

Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Don't let yourself down
And don't let yourself go
Your last chance has arrived

Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fixing the Five Oceans

Some suggestions to fix the crap 5 Oceans web site:

1) Make all content free - the limited video clips are not worth 20 quid and it appears from posts here that it hasn't been tested on Macs

2) Having made all content free, return the money to those that have paid for the so-called "ultimate coverage"

3) Get rid of the current race viewer and check the terms of the contract with the company that developed it: it doesn't appear to be fit for purpose

4) Replace it with something simple like the Google Maps mash-up used by the Mike Golding web site.

5) Put a regular space for the weather forecast and wind charts preferably overlaid with the position of the fleet

6) Give option to download the .kml files that allow race info to be viewed in Google Earth

7) Make sure there's a version of all pictures that can be quickly viewed without a huge (c) on it or having to register

8) Create more content - there are so few stories its hardly worth visiting. Making all the emails and photos sent from the skippers accessible would help - there's no reason not too given the media savvy like Mike Golding have their own sites where its posted for free whatever the 5 Oceans site does

9) If you can't afford more writers then get some bloggers in to create some

10) Create more space on the web site for content and reduce the clutter of adverts

11) Add a forum section for interaction with users - templates for these can be bought are off the shelf for not much money

12) Have a regular link to keep readers informed with status of the revamp

13) Check out the other race web sites - such as the very successful Volvo Ocean Race web site - and borrow shamelessly

14) Do something quickly before the race becomes a write-off

Any others?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lost and found

This is where my sailing chum Jonathan's Class 40 was lurking. When the rest of the Route du Rhum was blasting its way across the Atlantic his Friends of the Earth was being hoisted at Cowes for repairs.

Hope it is soon back on the water racing - as in this video here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The giant squid, the sinking boat and the whisky bottle

More drama for both the 5 Oceans and the Route du Rhum:
- Mike Golding's boat Ecover (above, in the Bay of Biscay storms) has been attacked by a giant squid
- French skipper Didier Levillain was whisked by helicopter to safety as his monohull sank beneath him
- Multi-hull Orange had the central of three hulls damaged by collision with a container
- Mast climb for Nick Bubb to retrieve a stuck halyard in rough conditions
- Multi-hull capsized when in third position, crew now rescued
- Concern about leaky whisky bottles on Robin Knox-Johnston's boat Saga Insurance (now that's serious)

Given all this drama its amazing how little of it is reported in either the print or tv news. So many sports gets so much coverage why (oh why) is so little time available for sailing? How can the stories above be less interesting than something like Formula 1, where cars just go round and round and round in circles?

Of course it would help if there were better ways of explaining what is happening during an offshore yacht racing - and more importantly why. Tools such as Virtual Spectator should be universal rather than the exception, where animations show boat positions and weather systems so tactics can be clearly explained.

It isn't helped by crap web sites like the 5 Oceans one, which has recently issued this belated apology (anyone interested in following that race can find a race viewer that actually works on Mike Golding's site here).

But that should be a story in its own right, a bone of contention that few can argue against. Unlike last year's fake controversy created by some sailing magazines (Yachting World you know who we mean) that criticized the new Volvo 70 class - false because those most involved (the sailors) were fully behind it, and it will continue to be the basis for the next race.

In the mean time the RdR fleet continues to power its way to the Caribbean, nice trades aligned with the direct great circle path. Must be fun out there.

Images from, and

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Routing the Route du Rhum

While the Route du Rhum web site is obviously better than that of the 5 Oceans it still falls short of the arm-chair navigators favorite, the Volvo Virtual Spectator software. So routing and tactics must rely on overlaying two sites, the forecast and the RdR's charts, as done below.

Chart as of 19:45 on 1st November:

Wind forecast for 6Z on 2-11-2006:
So it looks like increasing easterlies for the fleet up to 30 - 35 knots. The multi-hulls way ahead of the main pack can be seen to be heading south to get those winds just to the north of that mini-low.

More on this later - till then, anyone know a better approach? I see there is a RdR Google Earth link, but it seems to be less up to date than the web site charting tool.

Also does anyone know of any GRIB files in Google Earth format?


Graphics from and

Route du Rhum's Missing Yacht

After the disappointment of the Velux 5 Oceans it's good to see a proper offshore yacht race and web site. The Route du Rhum race shows how it should be done, with a huge fleet (for offshore races) of 86 registered multis and mono-hulls, and a web site with easy to find and free news, pictures, and videos. The charting tool may be basic but at least it works. If its rum cocktails all round make mine a mojito.

In particular I was really excited to see that my old sailing chum Jonathan Crinion was one of those registered. He was on my watch when doing the Fastnet last year and I found it slightly embarrassing to be watch leader to a single handed sailor. But it was hopefully a two way exchange and I for one certainly found his stories full of interest.

But alas since then Jonathan and his boat, Friends of the Earth (pictured above) have gone missing. I know from his web site that he reached Falmouth on the 20th October after an interesting leg up from South Africa where he experienced rough weather and a knock down. But since then nothing - fingers crossed he will be ready for the next race.

Will let you know when I get news.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

6 reasons why the 5 Oceans web site has lost the plot

This is a great photo of a great race, spoiled by the vandalism of a short sighted web site. The 5 Oceans web site might not have had the budget of the Volvo, but it is failing on too many points to ignore.

1. Paying for content - this is a bad idea as previously blogged. All boats are funded by sponsorship, and for them the more hits the better. Driving the prime audience away just doesn't make any sense.

2. If you do sell content make sure it's good - for yes, I would stump up if it were worth it. But from what they demo it's a little more than sub YouTube postage stamp sized pixellated annoyance. Now that there is broadband everywhere we should get at least standard TV quality - maybe even HD.

3. Limited news content - there have only been a handful of stories of the web site despite the dramatic events of the last few days. Maybe there is more open to those prepared to pay £20 but guess I'm not going to find out.

4. Poor quality race viewer - god I loved the Volvo Virtual Spectator software. For comparison here is the start from last year where that fleet too hit huge seas and several boats retired. Ain't that beautiful!

In comparison the Velux 5 Oceans is unusable. With my browser (Firefox) it is an irritation of flashing blocks of colour, sluggish response and unintuitive controls. I've given up every time I've tried it. Last time it locked up Firefox so I had to kill it and re-launch the browser. And it has to be downloaded each time you look at the chart. It doesn't have to be all wizzy like the Volvo - look at the simple Mid Sea position plotter.

5. Crippled pictures - as you can see above with a huge (c) in the middle. Yes, you can register for downloads but the agreement does not cover blogging. It covers web sites of newspapers and magazines which publish in hard-copy - not pure web sites. Its also a pain if all you want is a desktop picture.

6. Too many adverts, crowding out content. The point of the web site should be to inform, not be a "profit center".

Conclusion: all this wouldn't matter if there was coverage of the 5 Oceans on TV, but in the UK we only get to hear about yachting when there are force 10 storms and a British competitor and some dramatic film clips.

The 5 Oceans Race, the sponsors, the back-up teams, and most important, the skippers out there at sea, deserve better.

Edited to expand point 4 and add point 6.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Slow Mid Sea

The Rolex Middle Sea fleet have had a lovely view of the volcanic island of Stromboli off Sicily. Stars gleaming bright, lava glowing as it oozes from the crater, and rosy sunset reflecting in the still water.

A long lovely view.


Is that mountain still there?

When oh when will the wind fill in?

Oh god, not another drifting race again!

Velux in choppy water

Mistakes galore for the Velux 5 Oceans. Out on the water the skippers on the little fleet are struggling in gale force winds. But if you want to find out more you'll have to pay £19.99 for the "ultimate coverage".

This is really stupid. All the boats are sponsored by companies looking to maximise coverage and what better way to put people off than charging an up front free.

The internet over the last year has seen a great change. Sites that charged for content saw their traffic, their hit count, collapse. Sites like YouTube that allow videos to be uploaded and downloaded for free have seen their traffic increase exponentially and this site was recently valued in the billions of dollars.

Sailing is a minority sport and we should be encouraging as many as possible to follow. Putting up barriers like this puts off even enthusiastic yacht race bloggers like me.

Compare this to the Volvo - which not only a huge site with all content free, but offered for download the superb 3D viewer Virtual Spectator that makes the Velux equivalent look pretty shabby.

I hope this short sighted attitude can quickly be changed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pirates of the Mediterranean

Pirates, the scourge of the seas, dread menace to boat and crew alike, are real life threats in many waters around the world. But would you expect them in the apparently mellow Mediterranean?

Captain JP has heard of a highly suspicious and potentially serious incident that happened to one of the competitors of the recent Rolex Swan Cup in Sardinia.

Due to poor organisation, this yacht was forced out of the marina to anchor close to the shore. To the skipper and crew this was routine - from many years sailing they knew that with calm seas and gentle winds the anchor and chain laid was amble to hold her steady. And so they headed off to eat - annoyed at the race organisers inability to book sufficient berths but not concerned about their yacht's safety.

During their meal a fellow competitor warned them there were intruders onboard - uninvited guests who turned out to be divers. Their story was that the boat was drifting, and they therefore saved her and could claim salvage but would accept a "mere" 1,000 Euros for their troubles.

With the collective experience of those involve it seems extremely unlikely that there was a risk of drifting - if so, what was it? It could be anything from a misunderstanding to attempted blackmail - we will never know.

But the moral is clear: watch your boats. And watch those that watch the boats.

Challenge's End?

October has brought the sad news that Challenge Business has entered receivership with (according to Yachting World) £9m worth of debts.

There have been rumours all year of the company being in trouble, but it was still a shock to hear that the company behind the Global Challenge has hit the rocks. They and their charasmatic leader Sir Chay Blythe have been a fixture of the sailing circuit, their signature steel cutters familiar sights not just in the Solent but around the world from Cape Town to Sydney.

I had a great time sailing one of the Challenge 67s around the Canary Islands a few years ago (above) watching dolphins and eating bread dipped in the local sauce, Mojo. I hoped one day to go again, maybe a trip to the far north to Spitsbergen or even a Round Britain.

Its clearly tough being a sailing company - last year's casualties including Girls for Sail and Formula 1. Fingers crossed that restructuring can quickly bring back Sir Chay and his boats back on the water.

Mid Sea Wind Forecasts

For those of you lucky enough to be flying off to Malta for the 2006 Rolex Mid Sea Race, (or is it? - the web site says 2005) the cruicial question is what will the wind be like?

Will it be another frustrating slow race drifting round the way points or a bruise and sleepless night inducing battle through storms, thunder and lightning? I haven't yet been in really strong winds - 30 knots gusting 45 on the ARC was my tops - but from that I'd choose rough over the smooth every time.

But for the yacht tacticians out there, Angelika's pointed me at this great Turkish site. I particularly like how the sea area around southern Italy is called "Boot".

Bon voyage to all competitors and a safe return to harbour.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dolphin Video

Having got the YouTube account set up I'd thought I'd post you a little video of some dolphins we saw playing around the bow of our yacht as we sailed across the Celtic Sea last year during the Fastnet race in 2005.

It was wonderful - there were so many dolphins it actually got on the BBC. We were having a hard time drifting in the light winds so it was a great pick us up.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another year's sailing

The nights are drawing in and the waters are getting colder. Summer's fine sailing days are past for another year and while the leaves are still green it feels like its time to get off the water and into the warmth indoors.

This year I've sailed the Solent, watched the Volvo in-port race at Portsmouth from an old two master, raced round the Isle of Wight with 1,500 other boats, helped deliver Selene from Lisbon to Gibraltar, and enjoyed a day with Emma Sanderson on the Volvo 60 Pindar.

It might not be the absolute end with a friend talking about chartering a boat in November and exploring the ports where pubs have live bands - places like Yarmouth and Poole. But its almost time to hang up the oilies with a "that's all folks" for another year.

But what about next year? I was talking to a friend last week who used to crew on J's till he discovered kite surfing - yup, flying through the water powered by a kite that can pull him 20 feet into the air.

It sounded amazing. So one of goals for next year is try something new. We've been planning a multi-generation family holiday to one of Sunsail's Turkish resorts, where there are a host of Laser's, RS, cats, day yachts, and much much more.

It has the name that has already got my nephew sniggering - Phokaia.

What are your plans?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sailing a Volvo 60 with Emma

I’m in love. Or is it lust? Maybe just old fashioned desire. Anyhow I’ve been blown away by her lines and moves.

But enough about what it’s like sailing a Volvo 60 – you probably want to know something about Emma Richards. Sorry – Emma Sanderson, must get used to saying that.

Firstly, how did I wrangle it? The answer is it was one of the prizes of a charity auction – a day’s sailing with Emma Richards Sanderson. So as well as helping children in developing countries, as well as getting good karma for a year, I got a top day out.

It was simply fantastic – one of those 9/10 days. Alas it couldn’t be a 10/10 as I had a bad hair day. Now I know sailors are meant to be tough no nonsense and you can’t have any sense of vanity when having to rough it in a watch system for days on end with no shower or change of clothes all week.

But really – look at the picture below. That’s me on the wheel and for some reason my hair started corkscrewing in random directions like a crazy scientist whose latest invention has just gone bang.

Of course Emma was very nice about it. But then she is – nice that is. You could imagine Pindar insisting on this contract terms for interviews:

“the party of the first part, namely Emma Sanderson, shall always be described by the party of the second part, namely the writer, as sailing’s girl next door.”

However they wouldn’t need to, as she just is.

But this girl next door has sailed single handed around the world on an Open 60 with more sail area than this Volvo 60 and less mass – hence a greater power to weight ratio and without a crew or watch system (info point: on News International they used a rolling watch to keep the maximum hands on deck).

Here she is with the trimaran TietoEnator in the distance (making us the 2nd rather than 1st fastest boat on the water that day).

I asked her for helming tips as no less an authority as Tracy Edwards has praised her abilities. She told me how to avoid roll when sailing downwind with spinnaker up – steer under the sail. I knew that but pretended I didn’t.

She also explained why she got rid of the loo when racing in the Around Alone (now the Five Oceans). Apparently she was sitting there thinking (as one does) and imagined the weight of the pipes and the weight of the water in it, and working out that for every kilo of mass the boat must push out of its way many tonnes of water each day. And as she was racing it had to go and it was back to bucket and chuck-it.

This being a corporate charter boat there was of course more comforts. As you will see in the photo below the heads have a rather elegant loo paper roll.

The heads also is well positioned to allow someone to prepare one meal while saying goodbye to the previous.

Such an arrangement might be useful when sailing single handed or indeed in the highly competitive Volvo, but I was rather relieved to discover that lunch was sandwiches prepared on shore.

I mustn’t forget the rest of the crew – skipper was Loz Marriott who was in charge of the Pindar entry in the last Global Challenge, and he was joined by Spike and Ollie. Spike had crewed on Loz’s boat so there were three circumnavigators on board (and yes he got his name from his work with spinnakers – not, as I suggested, anything to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a suggestion which must have lost me some of what little sailing cred I have).

It felt like there was a fourth – namely the presence of Emma’s other half Mike “Moose” Sanderson. The Sanderson’s are moving to NZ and during the day Emma was on the phone a couple of times to Mike making arrangements and there was a lot of talking about estate agents and packing boxes.

She also described life as part of the ABN1 team, and how Mike wins because on board he is a perfectionist. “He couldn’t do this” she said, meaning the gentle cruise where sails are not trimmed right.

I wonder if that really means I can do something Mike Sanderson can’t – something of a feat in sailing circles. But I doubt that.

What else did we talk of? Property, running, Porches, the Mid Sea race (which she is doing on Black Betty), Robin Knox-Johnston’s battle to be in time for the start of the 5 Oceans, New Zealand, time zones, living without sleep (the adrenalin keeps you going till crashing out when reach land), rounding Cape Horn – twice, watching albatrosses, solo vs. crewed, sailing the southern ocean, how long it takes to tack a Volvo 60, Mike’s ideas for the new Open 60 they are planning (which possibly could include a Vendee Globe) and his being courted for the next Volvo.

It was a perfect day for a sail. 15 – 20 knots of wind from the south, blue sky, gentle sea as we sailed from Gunwharf Quay out of Portsmouth Harbour, round the forts and then east past Cowes on up the Solent till between Yarmouth and Hurst Castle. All on board knew the waters well so could go from buoy to cardinal all the way without need for compass or GPS. However a difference from cruising those waters in a “normal” yacht was Pindar’s greater draught meant we had to be careful to follow the main channels.

We guests (three of us) did all the things a crew does on any boat: get in the fenders, coil the mooring lines, hoist the main on the coffee grinders (ok that bit might be different), trim the main sheet, then hoist and trim the jib. Of course our favourite bit was driving and we took it in turns at the wheel.

She is a dream to steer – light and responsive. I was lucky enough to take us through a tack and she turns effortlessly. In a few moments she was going over 10 knots, though we never powered up fully so the maximum was about 12.9 knots.

There were some differences with “normal” yachts. Some we didn’t explore – such as the water ballast system. Some we did – such as the way the main sail locks into position so that the strain is off the main halyard, reducing pressure on the mast. But overall it didn’t feel too unfamiliar.

But Pindar isn’t a normal yacht – she was News International and raced in the last but one Volvo. So this boat had been round the world and battled its way across the southern oceans and round both of the Capes. The name was still there, engraved on the companion way.

All too soon it was time to head in for a beer and signing of log book (by Loz) and Emma’s book (well, by Emma).

It was a great, great, day.

If you want to get a feel of sailing Pindar, then just watch the video below.

I’d not just like but love to do it again – or even better on a Volvo 70 like Black Betty.

Better get saving for the next charity auction.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 9: Saying farewell

As the yachts left to go racing we finally found ourselves a free berth in Gibraltar's Marina Bay where we could leave Selene for others to take her on towards Malta.

It was, we all agreed, a great cruise, and Selene a beauty to sail. There was just time for to have lunch in one of Gibraltar's many Brits home from home dinner (uncharacteristically and regretfully there was no all day breakfast) before a taxi was called to the airport and home.

We left Selene tucked up and took our rucksacks and tans back to London.

I would remember that night sailing down the coast of Portugal, hitting 10 knots as passed Cape St Vincent. And we would all remember Lisbon, Cadiz, and the wonderful sea food we found in the most unlikely of marina cafes.

Later Selene would have other crews which would deliver her to Malta in time for the Swan Regatta where Mark would skipper her to a respectable 11th.

Where next year? Who can say. But for me and Ian there was another sail to come - the day with Emma Sanderson on Pindar. As they say on the Moon - watch this space!

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 8: Through the Straits

While not quite the same as rounding Cape Horn, we were all looking forward to sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Its one of those landmark journeys that can only be done on water, Africa to the right, Europe to the left, the Med dead ahead.

And sometimes dead ahead is the wind, with the famous Levante wind blowing hard from the East, threatening a finally of endless tacking to windward. I'd have rather that than what we discovered - which was a dead calm.

So it was a couple of hot slow days motoring along, made worse by the failure of not one but two autohelms. The coast slowly changed, from the built up strip of beaches and villas to the wilds around Cape Trafalgar (below).

We stopped over before reaching the Straits at Barbate, which we all liked, though it must be admitted we never got to see the town itself. The pilot book warned to keep a good lookout for the tunny nets and boy was that right with mile after mile of nets heading out to sea.

But the tuna those nets caught was unforgettable - melt in the mouth fresh washed down by flaming B52s - as was the sunset on Barbate beach, where the waves played around this sorry wreck of an inflatable (below).

The next day was more of the same as Africa appeared out of the haze that would swallow up and disgorge a never ending flow of tankers.

At the rock itself we saw a yacht race have that very familiar floating experience.

As Gibraltar's marinas were full (with racers) we had to push on to Solo Grande which was just awful - as fake as a film set with none of the glamour. But it had rock star boats and a to-die-for view of the Rock.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 7: Cadiz

Not everyone likes Puerto America, gateway to Cadiz. Obviously the owner of this boat can't have been that pleased with their facilities. The pilot book was a bit dismissive, describing the marina as being a long way from town and lacking in facilities.

Certainly first impressions weren't encouraging - squeezed between a bustling container port and the sort of half built concrete tower block beloved by J G Ballard - with facilities a couple of portacabins and a large car park.

But we really liked it, mostly because of one of those portacabins turned out to serve some of the best sea food of the entire trip. Cuttle fish, baby squid, clams, and garlic prawns would emerge from some back galley, obviously hours fresh from being caught.

And the so called long walk was along the sea walls of Cadiz, with views like this:

When we got to town it was in carnival mode, with the crews of the tall ships celebrating the end of their 50th anniversary sail by parading though the streets, singing, shouting, blowing horns, and mobbing an unlucky policeman.

Cadiz itself is an ancient beauty - claimed to be Europe's oldest city going back over 3,000 years to - again - the Phoenicians. Of course it's suffered a bit - including being burnt to the ground by us Brits as Sir Francis Drake singed the beard of Spain.

At its heart is crumbling old Cathedral, which even has netting to catch the plaster work falling down from above.

We wandered street after street, each more enticing than the last, till we found the old quarter where the only difficulty was choosing which sea food restaurant.

On the way back as the moon rose we stopped for a thick treacly sherry in an old flamenco bar and decided we'd had a pretty good day.

So what ever the guide book says drop in on Puerto America and visit Cadiz. Just be careful if your boat needs a lift.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 6: The route

The Google map above shows the route taken. The timing was:
Sunday am - leave Lisbon
Monday am - arrive Albufeira
Tuesday am - leave Albufeira
Wednesday am - arrive Chipiona
Thursday - Chipiona to Cadiz
Friday - Cadiz to Barbate
Saturday - Barbate to Solo Grande
Sunday - Solo Grande to Gibraltar

We didn't like either Albufeira or Solo Grande - tourist traps. More on the others tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 5: Sunset sailing photos

While sailing along the Algarve heading for Cadiz we met another of the tall ships and she sailed directly across the setting sun. It was absolutely magical!

Does anyone recognise which one it is? And are there any photography wizards out there with suggestions about tweaks that can be done to these in Paintshop?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 4: Sailing Histories

We left Cascais on the 23rd July, heading down the coast of Portugal, heading due south. It was the same day as the tall ships set off from Lisbon to Cadiz for the next leg of their 50th anniversary. Looking around at the classic two and three masters on the horizon we could have been sailing a hundred or more years ago. It felt like sailing into history.

There were other types of histories involved - including the personal. Angelika, Ian and I had last sailed two years ago on a cross-channel cruise around the channel islands, so we were getting re-familiarising with each of our little onboard quirks. Angelika, we remembered, has endless energy and will try every sail combination and we remembered to let her do it - as she enjoys it and we usually learn something from the experience.

And the conditions brought back memories for me: we were sailing under a bright hot sun, with steady 15 - 20 knots of wind nearly directly behind and a steady stream of Atlantic rollers coming in from the starboard quarter. We had that for day after day on the ARC and back on the helm it felt natural to be feeling the power of the wave as it pushes the bow of the boat of course again and again.

Later that night as my arms ached from the weight on the wheel I looked up at the stars and imagined all the other boats and their sailors through the centuries that had sailed those waters. Not just the tall ships and their ancestors, the racing clippers like the Cutty Sark, but the navy of Nelson and explorers like da Gama.

And I imaged further back, the boats of the Phoenicians, sailing in the dawn of history their primitive boats to the edge of the known world. In those days there were no charts or maps, let alone Lonely Planet guides. The stories of the mariners from the ancient world must have sounded no different from the legends of the gods and giants, mixed together where reality and myth become one, where the Straits of Gibraltar became the Pillars of Hercules.

But one thing would connect all of those journeys - the sailors on the ships. For some things will be the same in the 21st Century AD as the 12th BC - such as the camaradarie of being on watch, the stories shared, and the relief at the end to go below to rest.

And with that thought after a long long watch I went below to my bunk to entertain the new watch with my snores and wonder: who was the loudest - Nelson, da Gama or Hercules?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 3: Selene and crew

There were four of us on Selene. Angelika, one of the core crew, her boyfriend Dave, ex sailing instructor Ian, and me.

Selene herself is a Nautor Swan 44, a venerable old lady launched in 1973. Heavy long in keel she excels to windward and in strong winds. She is a beauty with lines that gets as many admiring glances as a classic car. Unfortunately we tended to hide those lines with drying washing and a bizare and unsightly blow up bimini.

Our first job was to re-fit the mainsail after its emergency repair in Cascais from tears that came on the crossing of Biscay. While the main was ok the jib was almost too frayed to be usable without a lot of TLC. We also had a full set of cruising sails, some of them originals from Selenes infancy.

While the photo above shows the standard sloop rig, Selene can also be configured as a cutter and with time spare on the run down the coast we tried rigging a stay sail. It seemed to add to the balance, though there wasn't much of a speed increase.

Inside there is lots of wood and struts, not this bare empty space of modern racers.

Many thanks to Mark for letting us sail this lovely old yacht.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 2: Lisbon

A few words about Lisbon before describing the voyage south.

Lisbon is one of Europe's oldest and most beautiful cities, built on seven hills neighbouring the river Tagus as it flows into the Atlantic. Its been occupied for millennia, a harbour and trading post for the Phoenicians as far back as 1200 BC as they sailed through the Pillars of Hercules to trade with the early Brits for Cornish tin.

If you're sailing down the Portuguese coast or spending some time racing at Cascais you must leave several days to explore the city. Above you can see the stunning view from the castle over the river, with a replica of Golden Gate Bridge and a replica of Rio's Cristo statue, both slightly less than full scale.

We only had a few hours so were unable to fit in all that there is to see - the many old quarters like Alfama and Belem, the Cathedral, trams rattling up hills, old squares, fine restaurants, museums, parks and bars.

Our day in Lisbon ended with a visit to the temple of port namely the Solar do Vinho do Porto where what we drank was as old as we were.

Lisbon of course has a noble sailing tradition, as it wsa from here that Vasco da Gama sailed on his great voyages of discovery round Cape of Good Hope to India. And we got a taste of that tradition as our visit coincided with that of 50th Anniversary the Tall Ships.

More on them later, for they followed us all the way to Cadiz.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lisbon to Gibraltar - 1: Cascais

We started at Cascais, which should have been brilliant. Yes, as the pilot book says it is a "fashionable and rather elegant seaside resort". Yes, the eating out is mouth watering, with sea food fresh and charcoal grilled. Yes, Lisbon is a short train journey away. And yes, the wind is pretty much a sure bet, north or north-west 15 - 20 knots for weeks on end.

But, and it's a big but, its a noisy marina. The visitor berths are surrounded by bars where pounding sound systems echo around the austere sea walls till early in the morning. And it was the most expensive we found on our cruise.

However it was chosen to be the host of the first of the World Match racing tour, where Chris Dickson of BMW Oracle Racing won the final with a 3-2 win over Magnus Holmberg in Victory Challenge (above, coming in second once too many times).

It's a good stop-over for a day or two, if you're heading off to the Med or Canaries. But if you want to spend a few days exploring Lisbon and the surrounding countryside- or like us leave a boat there for a few days to swap crews - it would be better to go up the river to the city marinas.

Questions for Emma

My sail with round the world yachtswoman Emma Richards is coming up in 10 days, and we’ll be sailing on the Volvo 60 Pindar – ex News International in the last but one Volvo.

So if anyone has any questions they want to put to her about her “Around Alone” race or indeed her hubby Mike Sanderson’s victory on the latest Volvo in Black Betty aka ABN AMRO 1 let me know.

Picture from