Monthly Archives: October 2013


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.


P1010942 P1010945 P1010947 Peel Castle and Harbor from the top of Peel Hill

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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.


Back to the Isle of Man

We’re back in the Isle of Man!

Having arrived back in Bangor from my 2 hectic weeks in India, the itch took hold and we both decided that we needed to go sailing before calling a halt to the season. So, with plans to overwinter in Whitehaven, we decided to have another attempt at the Isle of Man – so left on Tuesday morning bright and early…

Bangor turned out to be an excellent stopping point – providing all the essential requirements – laundry facilities, good internet, clean bathrooms and access via rail to the major cities. Laurie and Sandra apparently had a fun week together – venturing as far as Dublin (for the Guinness Factory) I think – and going into Belfast a couple of times – including a tour of City Hall – with it’s magnificent furnishings…

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So… Tuesday morning we’re up at 6:00 – but it’s dark! Still, preparations are made and by 7:00 it’s light enough, so I warm up the engine and make final preparations… We untie docklines and the very light air means we have a very easy getaway – except… the engine won’t rev. Not at all. I have virtually no power and when I push the throttle forward more, the thing quits. I get it started again, and have Laurie change our diesel tanks over. No better. Nothing for it, we have to dive into a slip and sort this out. Good job we’re not too quick to pull in fenders and lines! Fortunately there’s a slip open and we ghost into it. The culprit turns out to be my tool bag – stored right next to the dual fuel filters – the selection lever was moved to be between the two filters – getting fuel from nowhere! Quick fix – we’re off by 7:30…

We had winds behind us most of the way and quite light – but managed to sail the bulk of the way to Peel Harbor – with a nice current behind us nearly all the way! We were forced to watch the clock closely since Peel’s entrance has a ‘Flapgate’ which is only open at high water +/- 2 hours – so 4pm was the deadline! Failing this we’d have to take a mooring on the outside, but with 30kt northerly winds forecast the following morning, this was not something we were looking forward to! Fortunately, we arrived in very good time and took the 2:30 bridge opening time to enter the harbor and secure on B dock. Peel is a tight little harbor, and having secured, we decided we ought to face the opposite direction in order to face the expected wind. Turning around was quite interesting – but we managed – with Laurie fishing a poorly thrown dockline out of the drink and steering us backward into the slip. All good. Gin and Tonic’s well deserved!