Category Archives: Interesting Things or Events


It’s certainly been an interesting year! Not many people get to take an overly extended vacation. Fewer get to experience a transatlantic crossing in their own sailboat, fewer still then have such good relationships with their bosses that they’re able to take back their jobs and carry on as before! Blessed indeed!


The highlight for me for the whole trip was tying up in Whitehaven, back in the UK under my own steam. Very silly I know, but the sense of accomplishment was just fantastic. Of course there were other memorable experiences 5 of which stick out particularly:

1. The sail down the Sakonnet river in the early morning as we left Portsmouth and started our journey. It was a gorgeous morning with light winds, clear as a bell. Our friends Peter and Diane were there on the rocks below Fogland and waved us off.

2. The 20+ foot seas that we encountered about half way to the Azores from Boston. In spite of the challenging conditions, we kept our heads and the event was weathered with some ease – though we did indeed take sensible decisions to deal with the conditions at hand, towing a weighted warp to keep the boat pointing appropriately and preventing her from riding the faces of the waves. Toodle-oo! remained steady throughout.

3. Landfall in the Azores. Not only had we managed to cover the 2,000 mile journey, but our planning and execution had been great. The last day of the trip we sensibly slowed the boat and had a wonderfully relaxed day aboard, arriving the following morning at first light, albeit in windy conditions. Having made port, we anchored initially to take a breather and then radioed in to some boats that we’d begun an SSB dialog with, thereby securing some much needed assistance to get us into a slip whose fingers were only half the length of Toodle-oo! and secure us without fuss. A well executed ending to a great passage – a passage that earned us full membership of the Ocean Cruising Club.

4. Friendships established in the Azores with OCC members. In particular, Tony and Rachel aboard Saltwhistle III, Steve and Chris on Chewsy, Mark aboard Lone Rival, Jen aboard Pakeia, Mick aboard the ill-fated and diminutive Simo and of course Commodore John and Leading Lady Jenny aboard Al Shaheen. The comradeship that quickly developed between long distance cruisers has been talked about – but now we were finally experiencing it. We look forward to the prospect of meeting up with all of them again – sometime in the future in some distant port – and hopefully we’ll be able to remember each other’s names!

5. The passage from the Azores to Ireland. Albeit with much help from Tony on Saltwhistle III, this passage marked the first where I was truly in charge of the routing myself. Put it down to beginner’s luck, but we managed to secure wind and consequent fast passage of under 8 days whereas the rest of the OCC fleet that left a day or two either side of our departure, struggled to find any wind. The downside of this luck was a constantly heeled boat making life down below just a little challenging.


We’re now back in the US and working for a crust – but I’ll be updating the site from time to time…

The Green Flash…

While I was away in India, Laurie met a nice retired couple on a power boat, John and Val who befriended her and fed her at a local establishment. By the time I got back to Ireland, they’d left, leaving their boat on the hard in Bangor while having some work done this winter.

We caught up with them again when we arrived in the Isle of Man, enjoying dinner aboard Toodle-oo! followed by a movie at the local Centenary Centre and then yesterday they treated us with a ride around the island to Castletown, followed by dinner at their beautiful house just about 10  minutes out of Peel.


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John retired from the Telecoms industry where he was involved in Fibre Optic design stuff – including many other things as far as I can make out! Val has taken up painting in her retirement – with great success! They started boating in the late 90’s and now traipse around the UK during the summer months. They also use their boat for surveying the local Whale, Dolphin, Shark and probably other species of animal in the Irish Sea – and John can credit himself with getting the Man and UK governments to recognize that these animals not only live in the Irish Sea, but thrive and therefore need to be recognized (so that they can then enjoy a measure of protection).

John is a mine of information – about most things it seems – but his involvement in optics has probably led him to a specific appreciation for solar and atmospheric phenomena. So when he started spouting about the Green Flash and other related phenomena, I did my normal routine of poo-hooing – since I’ve never seen such a thing and don’t believe in them. (Despite other good friends – Peter, Diane – assuring me of it’s existence.) Next thing I know, the books are out and John is documenting all the effects. Not only that, but his house is positioned in such a way that it has almost perfect alignment to observe the Green Flash from. And so it was, in the middle of dinner, we abandoned our plates and were treated to witnessing a magnificent green flash, immediately after the sun dropped behind the ocean. Wow! I can even explain now at least in layman’s terms) how and why it shows up!

John also shared other interesting things with us: How to follow our path using a website to track our AIS (when it’s turned on): and then he explained a way to tie a boat up in a slip such that you have no need of fenders (nor their potential to ruin the side of the boat! Shall be out there after breakfast to try it out! The pictures of him standing on the left and then the right of some quartz – are demonstrating standing on the European geological plate and then the American plate – the fault line being marked by the quartz (and the crack).


It’s really nice to be welcomed to an unfamiliar place by strangers – it’s another when they turn out to be so warm and knowledgeable. Getting to see the Green Flash was something I never expected – and to do it almost on demand was spectacular! We met as strangers, left as friends and hope to bump into John and Val again as we head north to Scotland next year.


The Season Moves to a Close…

… and from our correspondent in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, India…

So the season is drawing to a close. We’re now in Bangor, Northern Ireland and looking at the options for winterizing Toodle-oo! – either here or perhaps we’ll move her back to Whitehaven in the UK. We have plane tickets already booked for our return to the US – so we can both earn honest crusts during the winter months. It’s all a bit scary, leaving the boat for 5-6 months while we are 3,000 miles away – normally I’m within 30 minutes and regularly pop down to the marina to make sure all is well. Oh well – I guess that’s what insurance is all for…

So, ‘in water’ or ‘on the hard’ storage? I’m favoring in water, Laurie is convinced she’ll sink! One thing she has learned from some helpful folk in the slip next door (while I’m away in India) is that they always leave heaters and dehumidifiers going during the winter storage time – helps to keep the boat from freezing and lowers the prospect of mold. Both are on order as we speak!

I get back from India on October 6th, Laurie leaves for the US on the 17th – so we’ve got 10 days for a possible late season sail if the weather permits – or otherwise a long drawn out cleaning/decommissioning program to get the boat ready for winter – I’m staying on until the 23rd to finish all winterizing.

So where are we off to next year? Plans are far from firm, but thoughts are to head north to Scotland for May and the first half of June – it’s imperative to get there before the midges arrive at the end of June and make life unbearable! Of course that unfortunately means that we’ll be there before the weather has really warmed up – but that’s the lesser evil when compared to midges! This’ll give us 6 weeks of cruising in the Scottish Hebrides – thinking Islay, Tiree, Uwist, St. Kilda, Lewis and Skye – followed by a transit of the Caledonian Canal (keeping an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster) and then crossing the North Sea to the Baltic. The Ocean Cruising Club is planning a cruise in the Baltic, right up to St. Petersburg which we’re thinking of participating in – it will be an excellent opportunity to visit some countries that neither of us have thought about visiting before: Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Finland. At the close of the season I’m not sure where we’ll end up – I suspect either southern England or perhaps northern France… It’s really wonderful not having a plan that’s so rigid that it cannot be messed with as the time arrives!

I’ll surely be posting more details of our 2014 plans – so if you’re interested in joining us, keep tabs on this page and grab your spot – first come first served!

Too Close to Home

Unfortunately, Mick Chamberlain on the diminutive Simo, who left Horta late last week, had an unfortunate incident on his way to the UK. He hit a whale which holed the boat. His efforts to pump the water out were insufficient and he ended up setting off his EPIRB and then being picked up by a Spanish fishing boat. Simo is no more… Mick is well but devastated and will be on his way bak to the UK via Vigo, next week.

Sorry for your loss Mick – but glad you’re OK.

Mick on SimoP1010029

Arrival in Flores!

With 500 miles to go, we started planning our arrival in Flores – seems ridiculous compared to our trip to Bermuda – where with 500 miles to go we’d barely left the US! The good news for us was that we were able to sail the rhumb line to Flores – moreover it looked like we’d have good wind – albeit from directly behind us which is not the most comfortable point of sail. We motored a little when the winds dropped below about 5 or 6 knots apparent, suffering the noisy slatting of the main, but otherwise sailed wing on wing and took the consequential rolling motion – which made sleep difficult to come by.

It looked at one point as if we’d be able to make it in on Friday evening – but to do so we had to maintain a 7.4kt average. The winds did not cooperate however, so on the Thursday we quickly decided to plan for an early Saturday arrival and take it nice and easy. Good decision indeed – removed all the stress to get there and we were fortunate to have a really beautiful Friday and spent most of it in the cockpit. I took advantage of the nice weather to obtain a really good sunburn too!

Land Ho! just after midnight on Saturday with the sighting of the leading light of Flores. The wind was up and we had to slow the boat down to below 5kts so as to not arrive too early. When we finally turned towards the harbor, the wind was blowing 30kts – and we had an interesting time anchoring in 50ft of water, anchor down at 3:45EST – 7:45am local. Made it! We sat on the anchor for a couple of hours, getting various things arranged so that we could proceed into the tiny marina to find a slip and then motored on in to find a very tight marina behind a breakwater and squeezed ourselves into a spot adjacent a 33ft ketch that had been single handed from Connecticut by a twenty something young lady! We quickly met up with various other cruisers – Brits and Aussies – and planned drinks for the evening!

Since arriving we’ve basically been sleeping, drinking and doing laundry.The only thing we know about Flores so far is that it’s steep, lush, has cold beer available, no Laundromat, a good general store (but not open on Sunday). I’ll update with some photos when we’ve had a chance to really look around.

(click on photos to enlarge)


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Ready for the Off…

We’re on a mooring now, ready for a quick escape tomorrow morning at first light. The dingy is aboard and strapped down, everything is stowed and we’re both (believe it or not) looking forward to actually getting going tomorrow.

Commanders Weather has given us a favorable forecast for the following seven days which should see us reach about the half way mark to the Azores. We’ll be heading South East until we hit latitude 39 which will be the southern edge of the gulf stream at which point we head due east, moving into the stream during good weather and south of it when there look to be squalls around. While in the stream we’ll gain about a knot – not to be sneezed at. We should be able to manage about 150 miles per day – sometime more, sometimes less.

We’ll update our spot position daily – probably twice daily (need some entertainment) so you can follow where we are. Additionally, if I can manage to work out the email system, I may be able to send text messages to Abigail via our SSB HAM radio, for upload onto this blog…

Another piece of entertainment is an open experiment we are participating in – submitting data to Plymouth University in England who are enlisting yachties to take measurements of the plankton health with a Secchi disc. We have a 12” diameter disc, painted while, which we will lower on a measuring tape into the water. When the disc disappears from view, we measure how deep it is. An iPhone app will then record our position and data (depth, water temp, etc) and upload it to the University when we are back in cell range. We took our first measurement today – 2.8 meters… The only downside of this whole think: we have to stop to take measurements… hmmm…


Open Boat!

If you’re reading this, then perhaps you have an interest (or perhaps you fumbled your keyboard) – so if you’re in the area, please stop by for drinks aboard Toodle-oo! on Saturday May 18th any time after 3:00pm.  Look forward to seeing you!

Pirate Cove Marina, 109 Point Rd  Portsmouth, RI 02871 – End of C/D Dock…