Eileen of Avoca reaches the Caribbean

It's Eileen of Avoca at sea!

Yes, I’m in the Caribbean…. Excuse enough for the increasingly spasmodic postings. But was my sourcing of these wonderful snapshots of Eileen of Avoca at sea not worth the wait?

For six days Thierry on his 41 foot Feeling (called Ti’nga) kept pace with Eileen on route to Tobago. Sometimes I thought it was just to irritate me, but I’m assured his reasons were wholeheartedly altruistic. Not that that prevented me from raving like a madman whenever he came too close… 😉

Madman rages on Eileen.

I think he took a perverse pleasure in literally sailing circles around Eileen in the light winds.

That just about sums up the voyage. Light winds…

I’d have set more sail (including the seldom used topsail), if only I didn’t have to worry about the numerous squalls between calms. One minute I’m motoring at a steady 4 knots (head-sails furled) and the next I’m running before a squall at 8kts adding another reef to the mainsail. Absurd!

Eileen runs from another squall.

I guess it’s all to be expected in a days (or six) sailing.

The good news is that I’ve made it to Tobago. It’s taken some 7000 nautical miles of sailing and almost one year (since leaving Yarmouth) living aboard a 23ft boat, but I’m now in the Caribbean. Reward enough!

Though a celebratory cold drink (who needs a fridge when everyone else has one) is still the order of the day.

A beer aboard Ti'nga in Tobago

Here’s to living the dream (and working those abdominals) on the other side of the pond…

Cheers readers!


10 days at sea

Iles de Salut, French Guiana

It’s one thousand sea miles to the Iles du Salut (which includes the infamous Devil’s Island) in French Guiana! Time to sail the distance I’ve postponed by taking my Brazilian shortcut across the Atlantic.

No big deal. It’s a comfortable sail (with both favourable current and winds), provided I stay in deeper water (100 nautical miles out from the Amazon). At this distance, I’m not likely to hit any stray tree trunks or other Amazon jungle debris, I need only worry about the occasional squall or cargo vessel.

As it turned out, I had good cause to worry about both, especially when a mighty squall hit on the 7th day out from Fortaleza.

Rolling under stay sail alone

Let me share the details with you….

I’d had to weather a couple of uncomfortable days (with gusts to Force 7) on days 2 and 3, but was generally pleased with the progress I’d made since leaving Brazil. Especially when you consider that I’d logged 120 nautical mile daily runs (a new record for Eileen)! This was sufficient motivation to tolerate any discomfort and while the distances travelled were considerable (for a small boat under stay-sail alone), in future, I’ll think twice before running before the wind without my mainsail. Why? Because incessant rolling is liable to turn the stomach of even the hardiest of sailors, and I’m hardly hardy!

What followed were 3 days of gentle breeze so I opted to burn some fossil fuel and maintain my 100 nautical mile average to day 5. Eileen can easily manage 100NM in a 24hr period when motor sailing. Even if the winds are under 10kts. And since she consumes just over half a liter of diesel an hour (with her new 10HP Beta engine), I rarely feel compelled to wallow about for days on end in the tropical heat for the sake of conserving fuel.

That night more gale force winds arrived. Well, I assume they were gale force, but I did little to verify this empirically. Too busy concentrating on feeling sorry for myself (a touch of sea sickness coupled with a migraine headache can have that effect). Plus, I’m not to fond of braving downpours to measure wind speed with my portable ammeter, (though I did note a consistent 8 knots on my GPS).

Fancy that! No sails and Eileen of Avoca is making way at top speed with comfort and ease. No more rolling either! I’d have confidently gone to bed if a Chinese freighter hadn’t chosen this particular moment to play chicken with me.

Guess I’ll give them a call over the VHF radio…

“Motor vessel Sunny X (X to thwart potential defamatory action)…. you are within 3 nautical miles of my current position and closing. Are you currently tracking me by radar?”

I know they aren’t because my radar detector is uncharacteristically silent….

Yesh, I shee you…. your SSI number ish…..”

“No, that’s not me. I don’t have a transponder so you will not see me with your A.I.S. The ship you are referring to is 6 miles to port. I am a small sailing vessel currently 2 miles ahead of you…”

At last my radar detector starts to sound. At least they are now really trying to look for me…

I don’t shee you…Two miles? You shtay away from my ship….shtay clear….. you hear?”

“I’m trying… please maintain your course as I’ll adjust mine so that we pass port to port.”

rOK I adjust my course 10 degrees to port….”

“Not that way!!!! You’ll run me down!!!”

At this point I started Eileen’s engine and leapt (or rather crept) to the tiller. A close call. In appalling visibility (due to the worsening downpour), the cargo vessel passed within three cables! Much too close!

Lesson learnt…. Dodge before talking….

Evidently English isn’t as widely or well spoken on commercial vessels as I’d thought, so contacting a vessel via VHF might at best turn out to be counterproductive as it was in this case… or at worst…. well…. I’d rather not think about that….

But why didn’t they seem me on radar?

That mystery was only solved upon arrival in French Guiana. My over sized reflector had apparently “Gone with the Wind”…

A friend from the Amazon

Fortunately, the remainder of the voyage was pleasant enough. I picked up a hitchhiker…

I-pod? Nah… I listen to d-pod….

Listened to my d-pod all day (that would be a dolphin pod) as they whistled, clicked and whirled about playfully….

Worms with your dorado?

Caught my biggest catch of the day yet…. But didn’t get to eat any as it was full of parasitic worms… Yuck!

To finally find tropical paradise….

Catching up with old friends!

With two of my South African buddies (from the old Fortaleza gang) minding a spot for me at an idyllic anchorage (how had they known I was coming?). 😉

Tourists take the cat from Kourou

Time to join the day tourists and explore… but only after I make myself a little more presentable… After all, there are certain standards to uphold, and the “wild man from Borneo” look hasn’t been too well received of late…

The wild man from Borneo?

Yes… the beard and long haired hippie look will have to go. I’m in France now… how odd… never really realized that France extended to South America…

So it’s back to European prices, the Euro, and speaking French… I’m not complaining…

It’s also back to good wine, more than one sort of cheese and bread that doesn’t disintegrate when you touch it…

My taste buds are already celebrating in anticipation!

Vive la France!

Plenty of “nuts” this side of the Atlantic

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...

What have I been getting up to of late? Not much, just chilling out on the beach in Fortaleza with my favourite refreshment…. I like it so much, I bought two!

Luciana loves her coconut

Nah, just borrowed it from one of the locals… Mind you she didn’t let go easily. Never thought I’d be jealous of a nut, but here in Fortaleza anything is possible. It’s a sailors paradise…

I found this bunch at the end of the pontoon one morning!

No not that kind of sailor… the yachting bum kind….

My neighbour Daniel on Goyave

Yes… otherwise known in Portuguese as a Vagabondo do mar. The locals are more likely to be seen on something like this:

You don't suppose the locals have all gone commercial do you?

While the Brazilian tourists pay 20 Real for a ride on the pirate ship… What a deal! They even get to go swimming on the other side of our breakwater…

Let's all go for a swim from the pirate boat...

I prefer to anchor across from the beach on Beira Mar.

Eileen of Avoca anchored off Beira Mar

It’s just a short swim or paddle ashore…

Day crew for Eileen on kayak duty.

and what all the cool sailing dudes in the know do…

I borrowed some South African crew members for the day!

The locals seem to be enjoying themselves…

It's fun in the sun at Beira Mar, Fortaleza

Despite the lack of surf…

No waves... What a shame... What will we do?

And even if they don’t seem to have any reason to be happy.

The natives sacrifice another victim to the tide...

Perhaps he saw this man coming and was wondering how to place an order…

No need to move... Everything comes to you at the beach...

It’s been a month of song…

A song from the crew of Ercolausa II

and dance here in Fortaleza.

Dancing girl at Pirata Bar

The ideal balance of entertainment!

Try balancing on a truck strap at the beach for entertainment.

Fellow sailors have been great company…

The crew on Out of Africa

We’ve all been well fed, dining in

South African potjie for all...

and out…

Yes... it's even here in Brazil...

Met many a local for a taste of the exotic,

Get your acai from Paris Tropical on Beira Mar

and mucked about at the pool…

Beware of the pool noodle...

Always safe under the watchful eye of INACE.

Do you suppose it's loaded?

Marina Park is an excellent stopover. Don’t worry too much that it’s been shrinking of late…

Sunken pontoons are lifted for repair

There is still plenty of room to park your yacht, or helicopter…

Another VIP comes... or goes...

and party time is just around the corner.

Went to an ASA concert at Mucuripe... Have T-shirt for proof!

You can’t help but like the place….. even if at first it feels like you’ve arrived on some other planet…

I come in peace.... Deposit coin here...

This is Eileen of Avoca calling it a day here in sunny Brazil…

I'm getting more famous by the minute...

See you all for the next exciting episode of… nut’s across the Atlantic.

Apparently I’m crazy…

Eileen of Avoca in Sailing Today

There is a six page feature in the current issue of Sailing Today of my trip across the Atlantic with Eileen of Avoca. According to their editor:

You don’t have to be nuts to sail the Atlantic in a Yarmouth 23 glass fibre gaffer – but it helps.

How about substituting the “be” with “have”…. 🙂

or better still…. “nuts” with “audacious”, “daring”, or “tenacious”

My regular blog followers will have read it all before, but for those that simply can’t get enough, the article can be downloaded here (from the Fisher Boat Company website) or by clicking the following link for a direct download… Eileen of Avoca, Sailing Today article. Better still, pick up a copy at your local news stand!

I’m off to exercise my latent Tourette’s syndrome with spontaneous exclamations of imaginative obscenities…. I hear it helps hone your sailing skills…

Beauty and the beast?


The bride and ungroomed...

Dear mum,

Sorry you couldn’t come to the wedding but it was all a bit rushed… and…well…

If you believe that, then I have a wonderful commercial venture in which I’m sure you’d all be thrilled to invest…. 😉

No, its’ just another Monday night in Fortaleza and I’m at the Pirata Bar practicing my dance moves (all 3 of them) on the local talent. They are not impressed, probably because my boots have unwittingly been making numerous impressions on their dainty little toes… but they are very forgiving, and besides…

I have good reason to dance…

I saved someones life the other day. Really!

Not that I felt I had any choice in the matter, but now that I’m over the initial shock, I’m in a celebratory mood.


The professionals take over.

On a day like any other, I was relaxing by the pool with fellow sailors watching guests arrive for a wedding ceremony set in the sumptuous surroundings of the hotel garden. Quite a do, with no expense spared. Floral arrangements, grandiose chandeliers in fancy pavilions, cinema big screen for those not close enough to see the action, live bands, gourmet food and fireworks!

Except it was all too much for one rather overweight individual who sat beside me by the pool for a brief rest. His wife sought to make him more comfortable but within moments he had some kind of fit and she began screaming for help…

For what seemed an eternity, everyone just gawked. I thought it might have been an epileptic seizure in which case there was little to be done, but I’d seen that disorder before and this was definitely different. This must be a heart attack! The cries for help were answered by myself and a fellow sailor from South Africa. We moved the individual from his chair to the floor (no easy matter as he probably weighed 120kg), before realizing he was no longer breathing. His lips were blue and there was no pulse. What now?

I thought he might die there and then, and I couldn’t just watch it happen… Time to do something about it…. or at least try… Time to start mouth to mouth resuscitation.

In training courses I’d learnt of special sanitary devices to cover the mouth so that there is no physical contact with the patient, but who on earth carries one of those things in their pocket at all times? Well, if his wife kisses him regularly and still lives perhaps I’m not at too much risk…

With the heart massage delegated to my friend, I set about getting some air into his lungs… to my great relief and considerable surprise… it worked… and within five to ten minutes (but what felt like ages), while still unconscious,  he began breathing on his own.

I backed away and let others take charge while we waited for the medics and ambulance to arrive. Rather shakily, I ordered a beer at the bar and rinsed my mouth with it.

First time I’ve ever had to do that… resuscitate someone that is… plenty of experience with rinsing my mouth out with beer though…

Half an hour later he was wheeled into an ambulance and taken to hospital. I hope he pulled through, though I’ll never really know. Either way, I did all that I could.

Time to put the “do not disturb” sign up on the pool and just relax for a while now.

I'm taking it easy for a few days...

Crossing Biscay in late September

Sainte Marine near Benodet, France

It seems I’m always running late with my planned itinerary. Having a slow boat doesn’t help much but this time it’s definitely not my fault that I’m crossing Biscay in late September. Not that it’s such a big deal, but the appropriate weather windows grow few and far between this time of year.

Oh, and it’s now decidedly frigid after sunset.
I waited three days in the seasonally busy (read currently devoid of all life), but charming holiday village of Sainte-Marine until my chance to reach Spain presented itself.

Weather situation leaving France to cross Biscay

  • Day 1: Up to Force 5 Northwesterly winds in moderate to rough seas.
    The Aries wind vane steered Eileen effortlessly toward Gijon. I spent most of the time bouncing off the cabin fixtures (usually head first) and shivering despite my five layer wardrobe, but that’s a small price to pay for getting under way.
    Hats off the the 65+ sailing set. They must be made of sterner stuff than I am. While I’m certainly not finding my spiritual self alone at sea, I’m certainly discovering the measure of my physical self. This via a series of bruises, bumps and assorted muscular pains or strains. My trim office physique (hard as marshmallow) is having a hard time adapting, and if I hit that particular bulkhead one more time I’ll undoubtedly risk a serious concussion before the day is out!

The fishing vessel Magellan came rather close!

  • Day 2: Force 3 to 4 Northwesterly winds in settling seas.
    I’ve had to switch to my electric Tiller Pilot as the apparent wind is not strong enough to persuade the Aries vane gear to cease it’s incessant zigzagging.
    I’m at last far enough from any shipping to risk a good four hour sleep. With my new AIS system set to wake me if any vessel draws dangerously near, I snore to my hearts content as Eileen of Avoca’s automated systems take command. Bet you wish you could do that with your car!

Safe with Avel Vat at the visitors pontoon in Gijon.

  • Day 3: Force 2 Variable winds on a smooth sea.
    I’m motoring along at 4kts trying to decide whether to turn toward La Coruna or continue with my current course for Gijon. NAVTEXT weather forecasts are usually the adjudicating factor but in this particular case it’s my stomach that insists on having the final say. I eventually defer to it’s interminable grumblings and make haste for Gijon (in order to gorge myself on pizza and to stock up on Chinotto).
    On the horizon I spy another sailing vessel and interestingly it stays on an almost parallel course for much of the day. I say interestingly, because I’m used to being rapidly overtaken by just about anything that floats. Driftwood has been known to overtake my yarmoth23 in light winds! I conclude that they obviously have engine difficulties.
    By sunset I’m tying up alongside the very boat that has kept pace with me all day. It’s the French registered Avel Vat with it’s one man, one boy, crew.

The fearless crew of Avel Vat

I introduce you to Frederic and Vivien on their way to Martinique and blogging all about it (in French) here:
They’d been watching me with equal interest and even took a picture of Eileen of Avoca on route:


Eileen of Avoca’s refit

Yarmouth Marine Services on the Isle of Wight

Yarmouth Marine Services is currently working on making Eileen of Avoca ready for her Atlantic crossing. The to-do list is ambitious, but I’ve the know-how of the people who originally built Eileen on hand, so I am confident the work will be of the highest standard. I guess I’m betting my life on it… hmmm… looking it it that way, I vow to haunt anyone responsible for cutting corners or shoddy workmanship if it leads to my untimely demise… 😉

How’s that for an incentive?

The job list goes something like this:

  • Fit new 13.5HP Beta engine and ancillary equipment.
  • New rigging
  • Deck and mast fittings acid dipped and re-galvanised
  • Stanchions removed and re-mounted to prevent leaks
  • Mast and teak areas varnished / painted to handle tropical heat
  • Inner linings waterproofed
  • Companionway washboards strengthened
  • Hatch locking mechanism reworked
  • Companionway step reinforced
  • Pushpit lockers waterproofed
  • Fiberglass stress points reinforced
  • Seacocks and cockpit drainage pipes replaced where necessary
  • Second (internal) bilge pump fitted
  • Second VHF aerial added
  • VHF radio tested and repaired
  • Solar panel mounted
  • AIS receiver fitted
  • Life raft serviced
  • Tillerpilot to vane gear fitting in addition to the existing mount.
  • Anodes replaced
  • 3 coats of antifoul
  • Dodgers made
  • Foresails serviced
  • Non slip decking material re-painted
  • Jackstays replaced
  • and more…

If I have any money left over I’ll buy a new EPRIB and some extra anchor rode / chain… ha! big if…
This list will be updated as it changes, and as soon as I get back to the boat I’ll take photos to show everyone how the work is progressing.

Eileen of Avoca returns to Yarmouth

Ramblin' Rose greets Eileen of Avoca

With the high pressure system responsible for England’s mini ‘heat-wave’ weakening, and only 80 miles remaining to reach Yarmouth, my eagerness for an extended stay in Dartmouth was understandably muted, besides, I’d promised friends I’d do my best to reach the Isle of Wight in time for the annual Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival (YOGAFF).

A settling sea (my favourite kind), greeted Eileen of Avoca as she embarked (mid-afternoon) on her decisive leg. With mainsail aloft, and time aplenty, we…

(no, I’m not using Pluralis Maiestatis, it’s just that after all this time sailing, I can’t help anthropomorphising a little with Eileen, especially when I know that she’s the one doing all the hard work…),

anyway… we chugged across Lyme Bay at half speed and on into another fine night…

Ensuring that our 😉 course provided a minimum 6 mile offing from Portland Bill (well clear of the race), I set the solo sailors bane (the mechanical egg timer) to annoy me at 30 minute intervals.

By sunrise it had certainly done its job!

Satisfactorily peeved by egg timer induced nap disruption, I turned Eileen toward the ‘Needles Channel’ on a course of approximately 20º arriving at the fairway buoy just as the tide turned. Unfortunately, the turn was for the worse (an ebb tide), but a quick delve through my tidal atlas revealed a counter-current close to shore! Ah, “Hope springs eternal…”, and the increasing number of small craft escaping the Solent were spared any impending howls of frustration.

Upon reaching the west cardinal buoy marking ‘The Bridge’, I hurried shoreward and within minutes of passing ‘The Needles’ I found my elusive counter current.

It is at this point that I noticed Eileen was being closely pursued by a boatload of tourists. How surreal, but what a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be David Lemonius on Ramblin’ Rose coming to welcome Eileen home. One of his prodigal daughters returns… and who could have asked for a finer welcome!

After a brief exchange of greetings and many a click of the tourist camera as David’s passengers made the most of their unscheduled stop, I said an embarrassing “hello everyone” to his captive audience before turning to fight the remaining tide into Yarmouth.

After three years of wandering abroad, Eileen of Avoca was back at last.

Crossing the Bay of Biscay in a small boat

General weather situation for Bay of Biscay crossing

Crossing Biscay wasn’t something I was willing to take on without careful preparation. I spent hours sifting through my pilot books studying approaches to suitable bolt-holes and checking the tides for destinations as varied as Audierne to the north and La Rochelle to the northeast.

The prevailing weather conditions (winds with a northerly aspect and corresponding swell), would not make the passage trivial, and given the frequency of storms, it is not surprising that it took a week of sheltering in Gijon before a suitable three day weather window presented itself.

Gijon was my chosen jump-off point because it shortened my crossing by at least 24hrs (compared with La Coruna), and maximized options for changing my destination on route.

As a large high pressure system approached Biscay offering north westerly winds and settled conditions (see weather-fax) I committed Eileen of Avoca to the crossing.

The idea was to head north as quickly as possible and try to stay ahead of the high pressure system’s center. I was only partly successful.

After a marvelous 24hr run in steady Force 4 winds, covering more than 100NM under sail alone, I stalled in light variable winds. Apparently it was not fast or far enough to outrun the high. The next two days were spent motor sailing, maintaining 4 to 4.5kts, a speed necessary to avoid being caught by the cold front strengthening in the Atlantic.

That’s the official line. I’d like to embellish it further and add volumes on the discomforts endured and how only fine seamanship and the luck of the Irish (I’m figuring that Eileen of Avoca qualifies for this), saved us from a certain doom as we fought a savage sea against a lee shore. But I’ll save that version for my retirement.

The unofficial version (for your eyes only) goes something like this:

I spent hours pouring over my pilot books because there is nothing else in the way of reading material on Eileen, and I stayed in Gijon a week because I didn’t want to be rained upon on route.

The approaching high pressure system equated to an inconsequential swell,which suits me fine because I can keep my food down better when I’m not being violently shaken about.

Swallow visiting Eileen for the night

My marvelous run was spent deciding what to eat next (at sardine sandwich o’clock or half past cold roast chicken), and dozing, because heading directly north from Gijon allows you to miss most of the shipping traffic (my radar detector bleeped only once).

All I had to do was stay on the boat and amuse myself while Eileen did the rest. Hardly an epic journey.

Apart from a surreal “Hitchcock birds” moment or two as increasing numbers of exhausted swallows noisily settled both on and in Eileen each night (in the most unlikely of places), it was delightfully uneventful. Dull is always good when sailing.

As soon as I see the first item in NAVTEXT transmissions taken on route stating “No Warning”, I know I can relax into my semi-catatonic solo passage making stupor. Here is one that almost threatens to be moderately interesting with its mention of fog and rain, but upon closer examination doesn’t quite manage it:


181200 UTC MAY 10



TUE 18 MAY 2010 AT 09 UTC.




LOW 983 48N45W, MOV SE, EXP 995 47N40W BY 19/00 UTC THEN 998 49N35W





3 : FCST TO WED 19 AT 12 UTC

















North along the Portuguese coast to Aveiro

Eileen of Avoca under sail in Portugal

My next leg to the anchorage at Aveiro was uneventful, except perhaps for the occasional downpour, forcing me to shelter below decks. I’d occasionally pop my head out to make sure I wasn’t about to run into anything but other than that there was little to keep me occupied. I wasn’t even going to try to fish. With yesterdays catch under ice (purchased in Figueira da Foz), I would not need to use my lucky lure for quite a while.

Forced below, I did a little cooking to pass the time and make a new batch of fish pate.

The recipe?

Preparing fish (Bonito) pate

Fry your bonito or tuna steaks in olive oil with some rosemary. Take off the skin and bone when it cools so that it looks like what’s in the photo. Take one chopped onion, several chopped capers (the large type with the stem), mash your catch of the day, and add lots of mayonnaise. Voila! For variety add a little chili powder, fresh avocado, or tomato sauce to the concoction. Serve with fresh bread or crackers and you have a great sailing snack.