In the summer of 2014 we sailed in to the Med. We visited the Balearic's which were stunning. Then on to the south of France doing a lot of land touring along the way. We sailed on to Corsica and Sardinia. We decided to have some work done on ASTOR in Malta. We spent a few months having a new paint job and other work done that took a little longer than planned. By then it was late October and winter was fast approaching. We gathered crew and sailed to Gibraltar in rough seas & weather. Then we headed for the Canaries and finally on to the BVIs. After an 18 day passage we arrived on Dec. 27 where Mariah & Daniel had been waiting for a week to celebrate Christmas with us. We had a great time with them and are now relaxing in the USVI with no rushing or schedules. Love it.
From St. Thomas we plan to go to St. Croix, St. Martin, perhaps Nevis & St. Kitts, then on to Antigua. We will probably be heading for Grenada or Trinidad in May for hurricane season.
Details? The meaty bits? Well now..... those have taken a couple of days to sort out.
The trip up from A Coruna might not be considered the picture perfect crossing one would find on a travel brochure (tho it might be more in the thrillseeking/adventure section).
It was 5 days of swells that ranged from 2 to 8 ft coming at our stern quarter with the random rogue thrown in from any direction just for excitement. These random waves would sometimes throw water all over the boat, sound like we hit a bus, or try to spin the boat around at the very moment you finally let go of that something you have been holding on to for the last 30 mins. Yes- it was a bit rough.
The AIS once again proved to be a fantastic aid with helping to keep track of the commercial traffic and dodge the fishing fleets, but we still had to keep sharp eyes out for the occasional sets of fishing gear.
Throw in a couple of gales that were rated at force 5 or better and another expected at force 8 but I don't know if it actually got up that high. We slowed down at one point to let a system pass by and just caught the fringes of it. Our highest wind speed got up to 38. We stayed prepared for bad weather in any case and ran conservatively the whole time. In storm set, and only the main staysail up we were just scooting along at 8~9 kts and having a great time. Other times we had all sorts of sails up, down, partially reefed, but nothing stayed static. We got plenty of exercise. The winds stayed behind us which put us reaching out quite a bit but we had preventers on everything so there were no sudden surprises. When heading forward you really had to keep an eye out for these trip lines running all over the decks but they did provide for plenty of handholds to grab on the way by.
Our course would take us straight across the Bay of Biscay, over to hug the coast of Ireland to duck of some of the crazy waves, then right up the St George's Channel, past Isle of Man, then finally into the Firth of Clyde. Even with the gale warnings coming in over the radio we just pressed on. There weren't very many convenient places or times to stop(we draw 10.5 feet and most places are too shallow). We got into a good rhythm and felt there wasn't a weather window behind us that would allow us to get back out again for another week. So we kept going.
We got all the way up to the Firth of Clyde early Sat morning and pulled into Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran for a look(as a dive-in). All info in our guides said only a few lines about it but it looked plenty deep enough on the charts. The weather was going bad again right in front of us and the timing couldn't have been any more worse to run out on deck. We barely saw the entrance, a bit of the shore, picked a spot and dropped anchor. We were all up on deck in the wind, insane rain, bitter cold and even hail! Inside this little gem of a harbor the water was flat and exactly what we were looking for and once we secured the deck and went below we grabbed some well deserved rest. It rained and howled most of the day but we didn't care. We woke up the next morning to clear-sunny skies, green rolling hills, and a postcard perfect morning on the shores of a seaside village. Apparently we found our very own Brigadoon and we were transported back in time.
We first planned to stay that day, launch the t/t and go explore the little magical town a bit, but also mainly straighten up the boat before heading over to Largs. Now that we could see, we upped the anchor to motor over closer to the village and see if we could get cell service. We needed to call our Marina over in Largs to let them know we were in the area. We were greeted with the response "We have been expecting you and will have your dock cleared by the time you get over". Dang... Secure for sail again! Apparently quite a few here are watching us on AIS too.
We shook all the sails out. Yep- everything went up. It was justified that the sails all needed drying out, but it also happened to shape into a perfect day with a nice breeze, and we could always use the hoisting/dowsing drills yet once again. In reality, we didn't come halfway around the globe to show off our motoring skills! The wind lasted most of the trip across the but eventually died down to barely a nary a whisp in the end. There were plenty of people out and about on the water also enjoying this Sunday afternoon and giving us friendly waves none the less.
There are several other Fife's already here and more showing up about every other day. I now reflect back on our run up from Gib and after hearing what some of the other boats went through on their way up it sounds like we picked the perfect window to do it. Those before us, as well as those behind us, seem to be getting more than their share of extra rough weather.
Now safely tied up in Largs Yacht Haven, there has been a constant flow of admirers coming down the dock even tho we are still picking up after our battle and looking like a total disaster. Every person has been delighted and flat out happy to see us. Fife fans or not, these must be the most friendly people in the world.
Astor has officially returned. No time for rest tho. We have some cleaning to do.
It should be actually be a nice ride up the coast with little winds. That means we obviously will be motoring, but we will take anything we can get as long as it's not a punch in the nose like we have been getting lately. Once we get up to the top of Spain we will look again and decide to make the jump or not.
If the weather holds out it means I will be without Wifi/Internet for a while. I will bounce occasional updates through Paula using the Ham radio Sailmail account. If you would like to check up on us there are a couple of places to do it. Both involve our AIS beacon installed on the boat. As long as we are within range of a land based station it should feed our position to the following sites. If we drop off the network or our position does not update for a long while this does not mean there is a problem, just that we are probably out of range. No worries.
This first one should be an easy clickable link. It contains our beacon number.
If for some reason that does not work, try the second site.
If for some reason I did not copy/paste those in correctly, just explore around a bit till you find us.
The second one is neat because you can switch on the wind data flags(left hand side checkbox). If you zoom out a few clicks they will show up as little "L"s all over the page. That is wind direction, and speed. A long line is 10 kts and a short line is 5. They all add up on the stick so three long and a short is 35kts and you will probably find us back in a harbor hiding again. This is some of the info we are looking at when we decide when to go.
Cascais is a neat little city that we have only just touched on while we were here(there is so much more). We are sorry to leave, but the boat will be back.
In case you didn't catch the moment our AIS tracker beacon moved, with much regret we said goodbye to Queensway Quay Marina and Gibraltar. Not that we wanted to go, but we have to start moving North to make our next venue. We will be back soon, and look forward to catching up with everyone on the dock upon our return. Thanks for the wonderful stay!
It was a good 25 mile romp across The Straits of Gibraltar, part motor, part sail. It was an easy warm-up for the new engine, break in for crew, and non critical time to sort out where halyards, sheets, lines, and hardware have gone since the sails were last shaken out a year and a half ago.
For some reason Byron seemed to be the only one getting hit with wave slaps today. It didn't matter where he was standing. He would just about dry out and it would happen again. It was pretty funny (at least for everyone else on the boat).
We are now in Marina Smir, Morocco. Smir is a quiet little marina that is almost like a ghost town. Due to it being off season there are only a few of the shops open. There is a huge apartment complex on the other side of the strip of shops that seems to hardly have any cars in the lot and a really nice looking hotel just outside the grounds that looks occupied only by the ground keepers(but reports say it is fully booked). Even for it being off season the whole area is being kept up fairly well. There is a really nice beach that might need some footprints pressed into the sand later. The boat yard here seems to be the only thing quite busy. Did I mention it is quiet?
They put us out on the Presidential pier which makes us feel important. It is far enough out that Wifi here is spotty from the boat but we can occasionally sniff out a source and squeak out a signal before it fades. If we walk up to one of the cafe's on the walk we hear it works better.
One should always be careful of what you make friends with on a walk-about. They may just follow your crew home. This would NEVER happen back in Newport. No- we didn't keep him.
We are here waiting for the weather to turn around more to our favor. A friend said there was going to be a predicted nasty blow come through. We had one nice day and it showed up. It is 4am and blowing 20 with gusts to 50. The rigging is howling. We decided to quadruple the docklines. That was fun. It is unclear how long it will last, but first look might have us here till Sunday. Depending on how big the weather window is, we will either dive into Portamao or just keep going.
We are close.