Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Return to Falmouth

We left Falmouth on 20th August 2005 a little apprehensive about what Biscay would have in store for us and still trying to persuade the wind-vane to hold a straight course. I arrived back on 8th August 2009 having almost mastered the wind-vane, though my respect for the ocean remains undiminished.

We almost had an uneventful sail back from the Scillies. I caught a small mackerel which seemed to emphasize the end (or temporary break) from my tuna catching, ocean sailing days. We were all set to arrive earlier than advertised when I steered directly over a fishing buoy. We eventually freed ourselves by cutting and rejoining the line, though a couple of metres remained caught in the vicinity of the propeller. I hoped the rope cutter on the propeller shaft might clear the final strands - instead the propeller locked solid, stalling the engine. Time to anchor in calmer waters and take a look. After a quarter of an hour, hacking at the rope, the propeller reemerged and I tried bring some feeling back to my extremities with the help of a warm shower.

I was still shivering as we entered Falmouth harbour, though quickly memories of the chilly Cornish waters vanished as we spied Will, Alyssa and Grace waving frantically from a small motor boat. We were then propelled by a whirl of reunions with friends and family, champagne corks popping, joining in the Falmouth week festivities and of course not needing the excuse of karaoke to perform our rendition of "home lovin' man" to the crowd in the Chain Locker.
I've just about recovered and despite the shock of the temperature (is it really summer?), it's great to be back. Falmouth is buzzing - my arrival coinciding with Falmouth week.
It's wonderful to watch the seamanship as the engineless working boats appear to sail effortlessly on to quays and on and off buoys. Falmouth feels like an international sailing cross-roads with northern European boats preparing to head south at the start of exciting adventures and slightly more weather beaten boats arriving with sun-bleached crews high on the thrill of landfall and full of tales of warmer waters.
I'm planning to stay in the harbour for a couple of weeks, sadly preparing Kika for sale and allowing myself to slowly adjust to a new land-based reality. It's been an incredible four years and I've really enjoyed the discipline of keeping the blog - thanks for the positive comments through the years. Now though it's back to reality and trying to fix the diesel heater to bring some warmth into the cabin.. THE END (for now...)

Anchorage in Falmouth: N50deg 09.2' W005deg 03.7'
Mobile: +44 (0)7759 819325

Thursday, August 06, 2009


It's been a great couple of days with clearer skies and warmer weather; a welcome break from the unremitting grey skies that tracked our progress northwards. The other treat has been the increasing wildlife, with spectacular whale and dolphin visits coinciding with our crossing of the continental shelf. After seeing virtually no shipping for the first eight days, ship-spotting excitement remained up-to our arrival in Scilly. Other signs of life included VHF channel 16 bursting into life, picking up Radio 4 LW 2 days from Scilly and a sure sign we were approaching civilisation when 10 miles out our phones emerged from hibernation.

It was always going to be a race to arrive in Scilly before sunset. In the end we lost by three hours, but with the reassurance of the Bishop's Rock lighthouse and timely help from the stunning full moon we edged past the surf breaking on the rocks guarding the channel between Tresco and Bryher, dropping anchor a little after midnight.It finally felt like summer today, perfect weather for show-casing the best of Scillys. I've been questioning my sanity on the trip north as we've had to add thermal layer after layer to stop ourselves from freezing at night - I'm certainly going to miss gazing at the stars in shorts and tee-shirt (or less), but today, at times, the Scillys almost felt on a par with some of the best Pacific atols.

Matt's been very successful at discovering the more "cheesey" corner of my iPod music collection, with "Home Loving Man" becoming a bit of a theme for the voyage from the Azores. The chorus goes:

I'm going to miss the sand in my hair,
The roll of the tide and the salt in the air.
Deep inside it's true -
I'm a home lovin' man,
Comin' on home to you.

I'm going to miss the wind in my eyes,
The shimmerin' light when the seagull flies
And thought I've travelled far
I'm a home loving man,
Home is where you are.

I just hope for the sake of the locals it's not karaoke night in Falmouth on Saturday...

Anchorage between Tresco & Bryer: N49deg 57.7' W006deg 21.0'
Anchorage in St Helen's Pool: N49deg58.0' W006deg19.4'

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Guest Blog

After reading so many of Nick's and various crew's postings (and generally feeling pretty envious afterwards) it feels strange to be making my own contribution to his and Kika's story. We have been at sea since the 27th and the time has passed very comfortably. Nick is so familiar with Kika and everything appears to be effortless for him. He is so quick around the decks whilst I still feel I am just finding my sea legs. He is brilliant in the galley and Kika's kitchen rivals any West End restaurant. We have caught a couple of tuna and sashimi and seared tuna has featured on the menu as has tortilla and jambon serrano, Nick is sleeping with a whole leg of Spanish ham. I will say no more about that. In the morning fresh fruit and home made yoghurt whilst looking at a forlorn trotter poking out from under the table.

This is by far the longest I have been a sea. At times it has felt incredibly remote. We went for several days without seeing a sign of any other human life at all. It was a relief to see a satellite one night as a reminder that life was still out there somewhere. It is like sailing in the middle of a self contained disc of ocean with nothing disturbing it. The sun rises, tracks across the sky and sets, the moon comes up the stars shine and we carry on. We see weather coming hours before it reaches us and the sea is either deep blue or grey depending on the sky. It is one of the great things about sailing - this connection with the passing of natural time rather than the frantic forced pace of everyday life.
We have seen some great things. Today we had a visit from dolphins and they played around the boat for about ten minutes. Later we saw our first close up whales, a school of we believe pilot whales about ten in all, some very large 3-4 metres long, surfing towards us through the waves and playing around us for about ten minutes. I am afraid I got rather over excited, but it was lovely to see them. Now we are closer to land there are more birds, young gannets, fulmars as well as the ever present and wonderfully aerobatic shearwaters and petrels.

We have 150 miles to go to the Scillies and then 60 to Falmouth. We are already planning celebrations in the Scillies, beer for Nick and a pasty for me. It has been great to see Nick again and an honour to share a leg of his journey (and his jambon). It will be great having him back in England. But on those cold Winter nights won't we miss logging on to Kika Sailing and reading about warmer places and Nick's adventures at sea. Thanks for sharing it with us and thanks for a great couple of weeks. Mattxx
Position at 12.15 on the 4th August N48 39' W10 41'
Daily run 127 miles distance to Scillies 181

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tuna at sunrise

Yesterday our squid lure was out all day without a single bite. This morning without expecting much I let the line out at dawn. Less than a minute later the line went taut and few minutes after that I'd landed another small tuna. What a great way to start the morning. We both managed some sleep last night and though the conditions continued overcast and rough we were both in high spirits - boosted through the day by a whale sighting and dolphin visit.
The race is on to try to arrive in the Scilly Isles before nightfall on Wednesday evening. It's going to be tight. Despite careering along during the day, our speed dropped overnight and we've only once on this trip made more than 130 miles a day. Still it looks like the strong southerly/south-westerly winds will remain so figures crossed.

Position @ 12:00, 3/8/09: N47deg33' W13deg 23'
Distance to Scilly: 308
Daily run: 121

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Grey Atlantic day

If we were camping we'd have peered out of the tent at the enveloping gloom and decided to stay put for the day. On a boat it's not much different; we read, listened to music, tried to find the world service on short-wave, slept, but rarely ventured beyond the confines of the spray hood. The mixture of cabin fever and lack of sleep from another very roly night isn't a great combination.

Even Matt stopped cheerfully predicting sunshine after the current almost non-stop "clearing" shower. Still we're making progress, today marked by reaching the southern extent of the UK shipping forecast regions.

Position @ 12:00, 2/8/09: N46deg19' W15deg 45'
Distance to Scilly: 429
Daily run: 126

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Calm before the wind

Another squally night beating into the wind and bouncing over the waves, which thankfully moderated into a fantastic beam reach over a moderate sea with a clear sky. It's been one of the most enjoyable sailing days since we left the Azores. Matt's spotted lots of whales this morning - mainly in the form of a distant spout, but also an occasional glimpse of a dorsal fin. Not so many shear waters today though.

We finished the last of the tuna for lunch, and with no bites on the lure we've had to resort to our remaining stores. Matt dished up a fabulous white bean and chorizo stew. It's definitely stew weather - there's a real bitterness in the wind.

We're expecting a windy night and day tomorrow, so we're reefed down again, prepared for another roly night. As it looks as though we've a couple of days in hand to meet our planned Falmouth arrival date of the 8th August we're planning to stop first in the Scillys for a few days before making the final 60 miles to Falmouth for the 8th August.

Position @ 12:00, 1/7/09: N44deg 34' W17deg 38'
Distance to Falmouth: 607
Daily run: 121

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wildlife in the wild ocean

It's been a wild night. Neither Matt or myself managed any sleep as a heavily reefed Kika crashed, rolled and wove her way downwind through a large sea. Thankfully at sunrise the wind moderated and veered to the west, allowing us to grab a couple of hours rest and emerge later to find a calmer sea and warming sun.

I've found a bag of yoghurt powder I didn't know I had, hidden under the spare pasta, allowing us to treat ourselves to yoghurt with fresh fruit for breakfast.
The morning continued improving when the line shot out and I finally I managed to land a small tuna, providing sashimi followed by tuna steaks for lunch and poisson cru for dinner. What a treat.

We passed over King's Trough today with the chart showing a maximum depth of 6324m - the maximum charted depth I can see on my NW Atlantic chart. It's probably coincidental but we've seen much more wildlife today. Lots of shearwaters patrolling the ocean and periodically circling the boat especially if they notice any lures out, then we have an occasional visit from stormy petrels darting close to the surface of the waves. And finally we've seen our first whales of the trip - just the spouts but unmistakable - hopefully if the sea ever calms down we'll be able to see more than just water plumes.

Currently we're beating into a rough sea. It's not the most pleasant sailing occasionally there'll be a loud crash as a wave breaks on the hull, followed by a couple of seconds delay before the spray immerses the boat.

Position @ 12:00, 31/7/09: N43deg 11' W19deg 41'
Distance to Falmouth: 728
Daily run: 135