Tag Archives: Sailing

Lingering in the Canaries

14th November 2022 to 12th January 2023

Porto Santo-Madeira-Porto Santo-Tenerife-La Gomera

Harbour and boatyard and paraglider, Porto Santo

Henrietta hasn’t sailed far in the past two months. Most of the time she has rested in comfortable anchorages and calm marinas. She may not have chosen it, and it won’t necessarily have suited her temperament. She would I suspect have preferred more time on the ocean swell, sails billowing in wholesome fresh breezes; surging over oceans wide, a dazzling white rush of water at her bow. Instead she has suffered marina blues, with the indignity of fish nibbling at her bottom.

Old windmills, Porto Santo

In contrast, I have been pretty busy, fixing bits of her and me, talking, walking. I’m weary. Henrietta can write this update. So, it’s over to her………………………

Ok, if that’s what he wants. The skipper is always boss. But it has been a long time since I last put pen to paper, and I can’t remember much of what has happened. Even boats suffer from lapses of memory. This is a little bit of what I recall.

After a spell in the confines of Porto Santo harbour, I had a quick rolly return trip to Madeira. It was an easy sort of excursion, a 100 mile round trip, anchoring a few nights, so Michael could meet up with some lovely lively old friends from Bristol, eat ice creams and walk through the very upmarket suburbs of Funchal. (Neither of us is very upmarket and I was embarrassed by his scruffy worn out t-shirts and disgraceful sun hat, when the good folk of Madeira often have clean chinos, polo shirts and eye-catching straw on their heads.)

Pretty and popular Camara de Lobos, Madeira

After that outing to Madeira we enjoyed another week in Porto Santo, before finally leaving at the end of November, once the boss had serviced my engine. (Although neither he nor I like engines, it is a great joy to have clean oil and new filters in my works; it’s a sort of colonic irrigation coupled with detox and high quality blood transfusion. Marine engines highly recommend it. I feel a lot better.)

Next stop Tenerife. I was anchored in a gorgeous spot, no houses, peace and the grandeur of majestic cliffs. Unsullied breathtaking nature. It was a shame that anchor chain got snarled on some old discarded mooring blocks. The boss dived down, couldn’t budge it, and had to cut the chain. Dived down again with rope to retrieve the anchor, returned with damaged ear and bleeding nose – all over my deck. (Think he’s forgotten he’s a pensioner). But I have my anchor back.

Onwards then to the city of Santa Cruz, which is the capital of Tenerife. Very fine it was too, tastefully lit and shining with Christmas lights. Pretty sociable for me with the constant goings-on of yachts joining the early winter rush to the Caribbean.

Christmas lights, Santa Cruz, Tenerife

In Santa Cruz there are also lots of those huge grotesque boats called cruise ships, like ugly Soviet era housing blocks many storeys high, with cruising human beans doing their thing. They come to Tenerife in a steady stream of winter escape, stop a day, then disappear over the horizon. Very peculiar. But the beans take lots of photos and look as if they like it.

She’s grotesque!

From the bustle of city life, the skipper takes me to the tiny island of La Gomera. He loves it here. I’m happy enough too. Don’t really mind fish nibbling my bottom; it helps keep it clean. With lots of fellow yachts and yachties, it has been a happy sociable spell.

Harbour, San Sebastian de La Gomera. My Teide, Tenerife, Spain’s highest mountain in background.

We’ve had the excitement of watching the start of the Transatlantic Rowing Race.

Start of Transatlantic Rowing Race

As a yacht with sails, I can scarcely imagine what it must be like to rely on oars and human muscles, stamina and mind-boggling determination to get one across that massive ocean. There were over forty rowing boats that set off. After more than a month, the fastest are soon to arrive in Antigua. The slower ones, with just one person aboard may take three months or more.

I know my skipper, is full of admiration for those rowers. He felt privileged to have a tenuous link with one of the rowing boats and had a happy evening as their supporting family came for a drink in my cockpit. You can read more about the rowing race here.

And you can support the Friendship brothers (pictured before the start, below) here.

The four Friend brothers rowing Friendship

There’s then been a visit from one of the boss’s sons, called George, and they’ve left me alone as they’ve gone walking and swimming. The walks here are fantastic for their variety, interest and challenge. I float here in the marina’s clear water; they take buses to explore the island’s trails, returning at dusk with weary tingling limbs and strong thirst for beer.

Not a good route to go down

Oh! There’s also been the joy and fun and absurdity of human Christmas and New Year festivities, and here also the Three Kings festival; a wondrous series of local song, music and dance, excited bean children, bopping bean youngsters and more, plus New Year fireworks. All this on an island just twelve miles across. I have been wearing my Christmas lights too!

Children are queuing to meet Father Christmas, who I’m told really did visit La Gomera
I’m dressed for Christmas

Enough for now. Skipper is planning to take me back to Santa Cruz on Tenerife to sort himself out.


NW Malaysia to NW Sumatra, Indonesia

24th February to 13th April 2020

Farewell Malaysia, Indonesia once more, and a world turned upside down

tidy the chaos on board and….
Sail west to sunset and Sumatra

Normality absent for a while, your worlds on hold or disrupted, cut short or drastically modified. Regular activities curtailed, plans torn up, and perhaps for you (though I trust not) anxiety, mild hysteria, poverty, ill health or worse. 

As ever, I count myself lucky. I’ll not dwell unduly on current global virus obsessions. For us who travel slowly on boats, freedom is one of the prime reasons that we are here. Most of us are always and forever excited at the knowledge we are able to leave a place and move on at will; free to try new anchorages, meet new people, see new life. We may only exist on the fringes of the normal societies we visit, merely brief visitors,  but that means we are less tied to the controls, pressures and norms of anywhere on land. 

Now that those freedoms are no longer here, we have had our wings clipped; we can no longer sail where and when and how we want. But it really isn’t all that tough or grim or bad! Whatever happens with mortals handcuffed to land, we still have sunshine, unsullied nature and the open sea around us.

Henrietta is just one of very many hundreds of little boats around the world that are pretty well stuck. Legally in Indonesia for now (though visas not being renewed), we know that other countries do not want us unless we are their citizens. Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Thailand, Mauritius, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, India: these are within reasonable range. But for now they’re all closed. We are bound to Indonesia, even though limited in how we may move within this vast country.

But Indonesia is as good a place as any to lie at anchor. In fact it’s perhaps one of the very best countries in which to lie at anchor. Here in Sumatra it’s usually hot and sunny (keeps batteries topped up), there’s usually some food that local people bring us, scenery is picture-postcard pretty – deserted sandy beaches, coconut palms, clear water and coral or steady glistening rollers of surf, sometimes heavy rain showers (keeps water tanks topped up), people generally friendly (though more distant than is usual, and very occasionally we are certainly not welcome).

Sailing life is of course disrupted. We cannot enter towns and this year’s plan for me to cross the Indian Ocean is postponed a year or cancelled altogether. 

But as I’ve already said, I am lucky. Now I’ll tell you what we’ve been up to. I’ll try to keep it brief.

First Sumatra stop, the island of Weh

With boat work completed at Pangkor (new batteries, gas pipework, shaft seal,engine service, antifouling etc etc – a long and dull list….), Henrietta was relaunched and I sailed north again up the Malaysian coastline via Penang to Langkawi. New sails – for me always one of the more thrilling (and pricey) items of essential periodic replacement.

In early March I left Langkawi, Malaysia and set sail for North Sumatra, two days and overnight sails away, little realising that in those two days, countries would close their borders and drastically restrict movements. Those who were later than me leaving were stuck in Malaysia or Thailand. 

A small sailing rally along the Sumatran coast and on to Borneo was cancelled before it could start. (I was to have joined for a part of it). But officials stamped passports, took our temperatures, allowed us ashore (for two days) and quickly the restrictions that the world is now familiar with came into play.

Two new crew members arrived as planned. Just one day later and it would not have been possible. Here’s a picture of the truly lovely Judith and Laura. (See what I mean about being lucky?)

Judith and Laura. It’s a tough life, yet they always smile…

At this point I’ll quickly tell you that Sumatra is the world’s sixth biggest island (or is it fifth?), twice the area of the United Kingdom and about a thousand miles from northwest to southeast. The next month or two or more (who knows?) we’ll sail along its length and the many smaller islands that lie along it. If we are allowed to, that is.

We slowly sail down the west side of this huge island, Sumatra

On the final day of relative freedom, before leaving Sabang, I joined others for a whirlwind motorcycle tour around the island of Weh: lush mountain scenery in every shade of green  and grey, waterfall and freshwater swim, beachside meal with waves lapping gently at golden sand (It may sound like a cliche, but it really was dreamy gorgeous). Here are the photos….

Next day after hurried shopping and meeting up with Laura and Judith, we are confined on board – no more landing allowed. It’s time to move on. Officialdom in this bit of Northern Aceh may usually be welcoming and friendly, but now we’re not wanted here.

Uniformed folk tell us to leave…after they’d bought us cabbages and onions…

For the next week or two, we stay on board apart from one short walk on a small deserted island, moving on each day, sailing overnight a few times, avoiding larger towns and passing or anchoring off the many small islands that are scattered offshore in this part of Sumatra. (In fact I realise that in more than a month I have not yet visited the main island of Sumatra at all.)

Another solitary isolated anchorage – an uninhabited bit of paradise

We’re told we’ll be more welcome in Teluk Dalam, in the Province of South Nias. So we head there. Sadly Judith leaves from there. She’s one of the world’s two brightest, most friendly, capable, interesting and attractive people. (Laura is the other.) But she needed to return to Belgium.

Quarantine inspection and fumigation in South Nias

One visit ashore at Teluk Dalam. And a visit or two from local lads who needed firm lessons regarding social distancing. Then Laura and I sailed on south. 

I firmly told these cheeky fellows about social distancing and they swam home

We cross the equator back into the Southern Hemisphere, a first for crew (hence the balloons etc). ….and then after several days and nights…..we’re told to head back north to a tiny deserted island (just one part-time guardian).

Laura crosses the equator. A quiet word and beer for Neptune…

This is the island of Barogang. You won’t be heading this way any time soon. It lies close to an island called Tanahbala, which is itself over 60 miles from Sumatra. 

As I write this, there are eight boats here, a mix of Australians, Swiss, English and New Zealand. And as you might expect from such a mix, an old canoe, some bamboo, a few planks and bits of driftwood are soon assembled to form a bar. Large smelly bonfires devour the rubbish and undergrowth that is cleared. And, depending on how long we are here, this may be just phase 1 of an international resort and who knows what…..but probably not…

Clearing a bit of the island of Barogang
Sign artist and admirer. Corona Bar is open (but no stock!)

Compared to most of my family and friends on land we feel blessed. We just need to stay almost wholly isolated (which for now suits both local people and ourselves). There are of course no medical facilities. No internet either. (We moved a few miles to post this update from Henrietta and to find out a little of what goes on in the wider world).

Wonderful South Nias Bupati (Regent) and Raymond (always calm friendly and helpful) come to visit
…and sunsets forever soothing and gracious..

New Zealand 2

New Zealand – Bay of Islands, Whangarei

England – South West

17th December 2017 to 4th February 2018P1060642

Someone mentioned I’d not updated blog for a while. But then not much has happened on the sailing front. Just pottered down the New Zealand coast about 50 miles from Bay of Islands, rolling wildly in Pacific swell, via some walking spots and an island or two, to the town of Whangarei. Got to Whangarei just after Christmas and Henrietta has been here ever since. Lots of work, walking, chatting, eating etc. (i.e normal stuff) and a fortnight visiting England.


So I’ll fill you in with notes on Whangarei and quick impressions of my patch of homeland Britain.

Whangarei seems to be the preferred city for visiting overseas sailors. (Kiwis call it a city but I’d call it a town). You can sail up the river, through an opening bridge and into the heart of the place.

Striking Bascule Bridge (Te Matau a Pohe) that lets us up to Whangarei
It has lots of shops, charming walks, weekly market, helpful friendly community, cinema, buses and titbits of cultural interest. From the sailors’ point of view it also has skilled tradesmen, several chandleries, choice of boatyards and experienced fellow travellers.

In and around Whangarei…


It should be heaven on earth, but for me it’s not. Suppose I’ve become too restless and primitive and adapted to life at sea, and already long for open ocean, wide horizons, tropical starlit nights and coral islands in foreign lands. Urban shorebound life seems soulless and unnatural. And, as for the life of most of my fellow men, I can only ask, “Where on earth are you all heading?”

Sorting bits on board…


Mid January I flew home for a bit. Life in England (and San Francisco where I stopped for a few hours) seems frantic way beyond the point of lunacy. Everyone rushes hither and thither, plugged into electronica, talking so fast and whizzing about so much, in such chronic state of collective self-denial that it must I fear soon lead to doom. I’ve even grown suspicious of the rapid fire talk of presenters and respondents on Radio 4 (for non-UK readers, this being deemed a reasonably sensible outlet of the BBC). And, since meditation and yoga are out of the question for such frantic and important people, it’s probably way past time to dose water with sedatives and emit soothing tranquilisers from exhaust pipes. Everyone may then calm down and lead themselves and our little planet along a wiser path.

In San Francisco they wait for the new Jordan (it’s a shoe!) Hundreds of youngsters line the pavement….

Modern life for people and planet resembles a giant snowball rolling uncontrolled down a steep mountainside. It grows larger and faster, ever more dangerous, totally ignorant of what lies at the bottom of the slope; unable to direct its own course and almost certainly doomed to self-destruct. (And I’m a positive sort of bloke.)

But of course I’ve had only a brief spell away from boat. Ten days’ rented cottage in Devon, visiting family and friends in south west England, reassured and heart-warmed by the generous hospitality of all,  treasuring the familiar beauty of countryside and architecture, marvelling at the range, quality and low costs of an infinite variety of stuff (both useful and absurdly unnecessary).

Delighted that public transport functions so well too. (For public transport cynics I can tell you my visit and local travels involved over 11 buses, around 23 trains, four planes – and almost every single one was on time in UK, US and NZ ….all credit to many unnoticed souls)

Cottage in Topsham (Photo taken in summer, not mine)

Always a wonderful treat to see my sons

As I write, from the saloon back aboard Henrietta, rain is pounding down in Whangarei. After returning on Thursday, she was lifted out on Friday – for the first time in 18 months – grossly infested with barnacles (one of the less pleasant aspects of lying afloat for a month in Whangarei town basin). And so it’s time for boaty chores once more…..I guess we’ll be in New Zealand till end of cyclone season, about April….