Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Panama Trial Run

27th March 2007 Continued……….

The Admeasurer was supposed to turn up today and we laid bets as to when he would arrive. I won both bets. I said 12:15 and she guessed at 11:45. 12:15 came and went and therefore my guess was closest.

We re-bet and Fliss said that he would arrive at 13:45. I said that he would not turn up and I won again.

Anyway, I filled the day making a wooden structure to hold the auto-pilot so that it would drive the windvane in light winds. This saves power and stops the autopilot from heaving and grinding in rough water. I hope my hours of effort actually work because we have not yet tested-out the theory.

28th March 2007

Today, we rang the scheduling people here in Panama and they promised that the Admeasurer would turn up. He arrived at 10:30 and simply measured length and breadth and told us to meet him in the Yacht Club bar in 30 minutes to do all the paperwork where we signed away all our rights to sue the canal and received our transit identification number.

Next stop was to the bank to pay for the transit so we rang Agent Ellerton who gave us a ride there and we shelled out the $850 plus retainer. The retainer is just in case we get engine problems or somehow take longer than expected to make the transit – the theory is that they shred the credit card slip once we are through.

That done, we rang the scheduler again and got allocated our slot for Saturday the 7th April and we then retired to the Yacht Club bar for a bit of socialising. We met with a great group of people including Otto who was delivering a new Moorings catamaran from South Africa to Baja California. He was on passage with mate Rob and had accumulated two other crew in Colon – Kenny, a Canadian and Kyle a German. He suggested that it would be a good idea if we had a preview of the transit and invited us to join them on their boat the following day. Of course, we agreed.

29th March 2007

I left Fliss on Nadezhda and took our empty gas container to be refilled. Otto hailed me from his boat that was in the marina and told me to tie the dinghy to the back of the boat to save paying dinghy dock charges – two beers-worth. He also needed to re-fill gas so we took a taxi to the re-fill station and, since Otto needed his cylinder back the same day, we went to the main petroleum works. We were promised the cylinders back at 13:00 and with a departure time of 15:30 Otto was leaving things extremely tight.

Anyway, we did eventually have our gas re-filled, provisioned with a couple of cases of beer and I fetched Fliss from the boat ready for our Transit.

Rob received confirmation from the scheduler over the VHF radio and we were ready to motor out to the “Flats”, an area just outside the marina to await delivery of the Pilot/Advisor. Otto rang the scheduler “just to be sure” and he said that we had been delayed to the next day, so he called them back on the VHF only to be told that a mistake had been made and, yes, we were going tomorrow. Great organisation here!

So another evening was had in the Yacht Club bar and we retired to Otto’s place for a couple of night-caps. Alongside Otto was another delivery Catamaran with party animals on board and we eventually went back to Naz before things got too messy.

30th March 2007

We got up late and had breakfast in bed around 13:00. There was a knock on the hull and Rob appeared saying that he had swum from his boat. The distance from the marina is a long dinghy ride away and Rob does not look like an outdoor marathon swimmer – he is an airline pilot in his other life. It transpired that they had moved the Catamaran onto the flats and were moored right next to us. I think that this was because Kenny & Kyle had almost missed the boat the day before.

Moorings 43 on the Flats

The holding in the flats is very dodgy and there have been many instances of dragging anchors and so I laid out a second anchor since we would be leaving Naz alone for the night. We then joined Otto and crew onboard at 15:30 and were also joined by Bolivar, a professional line-handler before we upped-anchor and dithered around waiting for the Advisor who, of course, was 45 minutes late.

We were to transit with another catamaran “Rush” with Alan and Marilyn on board – another great couple that we had met in the preceding days and it was good that everyone knew each other.

This boat is sailed by a Hungarian. He is having trouble getting his transit. Imagine 4 line-handlers, skipper and an Advisor on board!?!? He plans to cross the Pacific - check-out the bend in the mast!

The Advisors were delivered to each Cat from a heaving and rolling solid-steel pilot boat without mishap and we made for the first of a set of three locks that would raise us the 85 feet to Gatun lake. We soon left Alan and Marilyn behind – Alan was having worries that his 9.5hp outboard would be up to the job of maintaining the necessary speed but he still managed 6-7 knots. It’s amazing how fast catamarans will go compared with our deep-draught boat.

Pilot boat recovering a pilot.

So we ended-up waiting at the locks but had the opportunity to watch the two alligators, one in, and one out of the water. The one in the water was somewhere between 10 and 15 feet long.

When Rush arrived, we waited for a container ship to pass down the locks and we rafted the two cats side-by-side and Otto manoeuvred both boats in through the first gates with his two 50hp engines. Otto is a professional delivery skipper but learned a trick from the Advisor who told him to simply use the one port-hand engine and to steer the boat with the rudders – it worked a treat and the Advisor proved his worth on many other occasions. We have great confidence in their professionalism.

The locks from sea-level


So, the score is that you run into the locks and two guys each side throw a “Monkeys-Fist” attached to a length of twine down to the boat. The monkeys-fist is a ball of lead wrapped in string – dodge it! We attached our heavy rope to the string and when we are properly positioned in the middle of the lock, the shore-side guys haul our ropes up and loop them over bollards before we pull them in tight. As soon as this is done, the gates close and 4 million gallons of water fill the lock in the following 10 minutes –awesome! The turbulence is quite strong with boiling water all around and the line handlers on each boat have a job to keep the lines taut and the boats mid-lock.

Kyle (left), Myself and Otto (right)

"the line handlers on each boat have a job to keep the lines taut and the boats mid-lock"

Once filled, we took our heavy lines back but held onto the monkeys fist and light line – the guys ashore then simply walk alongside as we proceeded to the next lock and repeated the process. All went smoothly and we emerged in the dark to the lake where we moored alongside a large buoy, had supper (Otto is an ex-chef!) and a few beers. Otto, Fliss, Marilyn and myself were not sleepy and stayed up late, when we did go to sleep we were soon woken by the families of Howler Monkeys in the trees a few hundred yards away – they start-up howling at about 5 in the morning and go-on for about half an hour.


I had a great passage, I really was a true passenger! My rope handling skills were not in demand as they had loads of men who were willing & able. My role was official photographer so I spent most of the transit behind a camera lens.

I don’t think that Pete mentioned that the lock water levels drop by 85 feet and its amazing looking up at the local line handlers legging it up steep steps whilst holding onto our lines.

Spicy chicken and rice for supper of which our skipper/navigator & cook prepared for us, you really do have to give Otto his due as he really is a top guy!.

At 3:30am we all decided to retire to bed and Pete & I slept on the trampoline at the front of the boat, actually, very comfortable!.

31st March 2007


At 5:30am all were up waiting for the pilot to arrive. Marilyn and Dave (line-handler) went for a swim and I thought they were totally mad as it was common knowledge that the alligators swim from one side of the lake to the other in the morning.

The pilot boat appeared and told them to get out of the water straight away I’ve never seen people swim so fast! I personally like my legs where they are so I gave a morning dip a miss!


Gatun lake is dotted with islands and surrounded by unspoiled thick jungle. The journey through is about 25 miles until the channel narrows into the Guilard Cut where the hills have been cut away to provide the access to the Pacific-side and the locks to take us back down to sea-level. Again, we were well ahead of Rush and so tied-up to await their arrival.

Our Skipper - Otto

The Guillard Cut

Mexican sail-training ship coming from the Pacific

The outbound trip runs pretty much the same as the inbound except that there is no turbulence in the locks as they empty and suddenly we had crossed a continent and were in the Pacific Ocean.

We re-fuelled and re-watered and we were encouraged to stay on-board for a little celebration in the anchorage. We eventually gave-in and decided to stop for the night and were joined by Alan, Marilyn, Mad Aussie Cameron + Family and other cruisers for another boozy night.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sint Maarten to Panama

Sunday 18th March 2007


We left St Maartens at 10:30am for our long passage to the Panama Canal. The total distance to cover is 1160 nautical miles and according to our grib files it would be a nice broad reach/down-wind sail.

Good winds all day! At 7:30pm Pete goes off watch and Nadezhda & I are having a fabulous time! A good 6 and half knots, easy seas and a wonderful starlit night. The skipper made frequent visits as he couldn’t sleep and at one point we saw the most impressive meteorite burning brightly as it entered the earths atmosphere.. It looked like someone had let off a firework, a huge ball of white shooting through the sky trailing twinkling embers. The skipper was sent back to bed to try again.

During the night I has spotted this loom of light in the distance and decided it was a cruise liner. I tracked it all the way into our path and it just stopped ahead of us. At 12 miles distance it was as clear as can be. The problem with cruise liners is that you can’t see their navigation lights as they are just a bright floating island. Given that we were travelling at 6-7 knots this concerned me as to what his intentions were. Anyway as we approached him he turned tail and ran off…. Thank you! Actually amazingly enough there were quite a few boats out tonight.

At 12:30am I’m really struggling to keep awake so it’s time for the skipper to take over. As per usual within 20 minutes of Pete getting up we spotted a huge dark cloud approaching from the rear and you guessed it! the wind picked up, stair rods of rain! Boards and sails reefed we weathered (pardon the pun) out the squall… it wasn’t that bad just a real pain. Pete gets squalls and I get traffic it must be his magnetic personality as they always arrive bang on time for his watch.

After the squall everything settled down nicely and Pete had a relaxing watch and I finally went to bed at 1:30am exhausted but unable to sleep! Tomorrow will be different!

Monday 19th 2007

Lat: 16 53.9 North
Long: 66 09.5 West

Strange day so far as the weather really doesn’t know what to do with itself. This morning, perfect conditions! Sails pulling beautifully, nice seas and we were romping along at 7ish knots, we both agreed that at this rate Sunday arrival at Panama wouldn’t be out of the question.

Later on in the afternoon we had some minor squalls come through and then the wind just died!

Just before Pete retired for the evening we spotted a plastic container floating past us I said to Pete lets practise man overboard. Pete went forward with a boat hook and I helmed. Good news is that we found and retrieved our man overboard quite quickly the bad news was that it was a fishing pot, not a problem for us but how can them secure the damn things when our echo sounder is off the scale.


Night time came with another round of Squalls. I got up at 10pm to help Fliss and we took in the staysail and mainsail. Of course, it decided to rain stair-rods again at this very moment and we got a drenching the same as last night. With Nadezhda set up for squalls (small amount of headsail only), we escaped the rest of the rain by simply dodging down below and reading.

24th March 2007

So far the passage to the Panama Canal has been really good. We’ve had favourable winds (either broad reach or directly behind us) and we’re making excellent progress.

The only uncomfortable bit is the swell, at times the short but quite steep waves hit the side of the boat and has us rolling nastily from side to side, this usually happens at night when one of us is off watch it can become quite exhausting as you have to hold on for dear life.

The other night Pete was on watch and I woke up in a bit of a panic as it sounded like all hell was breaking lose outside, Nadezhda was being thrown around and the wind sounded like we were in the midst of a gale. I looked outside and the Naz was sailing quite happily at 5.5 knots, we were rolling around and it was quite bit breezy but nothing like I imagined, its amazing how movement & sound magnifies inside the boat. Pete’s done the same thing as me and thought all hell was breaking loose and when venturing outside all is well.

Over the last few days the squalls have abated which makes night watches so much easier, mind you during the passage we have had only the headsail out so reefing is very quick.

Yesterday the wind died down and we were only reading 4.9 knots but on checking the GPS we were doing 7 knots over the ground! Superb!!! You really wouldn’t want to be going the other way, headwinds, steep waves and a two-knot current against you.

We hope to make landfall early on Monday morning as at the moment we only have 262 miles to go.

Then its all fun and games clearing immigration/customs and arranging our passage through the canal.

Rumour has it that some yachts have had to wait for up to month before being able to transit through the canal, if this is the case then we’ll head off to the San Blas islands.

Our plan is to try to pick other yachtsman brains as what to expect and to see if we can assist another yacht by being line handlers so that we know what to expect when its our turn.

You have to have 4 line handlers (skipper excluded) and a pilot, the journey time is two days and half way through you stop at Gatun Lake over night.

This is the bit where it’s going to get cosy and interesting! We have to feed and put up the pilot and crew over night, what do I cook for 6 people?.also where do we sleep everyone?. Pete and I hope that we manage to get other yachties to help us with the lines as if we get local people we’ll have to pay and also I have to hide all our valuable stuff.

Yesterday we worked out our itinerary (rough outline) for the Pacific our plan is:

Panama to Galapagos - approx 7 days passage time
Galapagos to Marquesas - approx 25 days
Marquesas to Society Islands - approx 5 days
Society Islands to Cook Islands – approx 3 days
Cook Islands to Samoa – approx 3 days
Samoa to Tonga – approx 3 days
Tonga to Auckland – approx 10 days.

A real shame as we were thinking of going to Fiji but the pilot book says to avoid it due to civil unrest plus it is a bit of a detour.

The nice thing about the itinerary is that we have allotted up to a month in certain places, if we manage to get a quick transit then we’ll be able to extend our time on each of the islands.

Yesterday we had a about 50 Pantropical Spotted dolphins playing with the boat they were amazing to watch! A few of them projected themselves high out of the water.

I forgot to mention that on passage to St Maarten we saw a hump back whale. Seeing the marine life really does make the journey magical.

A couple of days ago due to boredom Pete & I decided that we would dress him up as an international Colombian drug baron (we were running along the coast of Colombia). He looked fantastic! I used black mascara on his eyebrows and joined them up in the middle, a black goatie beard, a scar on his cheek, red bandana, I also blackened his chest hair. The crème de le crème was the flare gun tucked in his swimming shorts! Pete and I were in stitches and he said “wouldn’t it be mad if a pirate boat came alongside and they just looked like me!”

25th March 2007

As usual on the last day the wind died so out came our secret weapon!, Our new downwind headsail. It gave us an extra knot and a half and worked very well with the poled out gib on the other side. Had we have had another 5-10 knots we would have rocketed along.

Just before Pete went off watch we decided that it was best to take the secret weapon down as if we were hit by a squall in the night we would have had massive problems trying to drop it.

The sail even in light winds was hard work to get down and I felt myself being lifted from the deck. It really makes you appreciate the strength off the sail, it might be light but it’s incredibly powerful.

So with the secret weapon stowed (dumped really) in the forward cabin so we decided to put the main sail up and run with two reefs and the poled out gib for the night. The wind kept dying so when we reached 3.5 knots with a over the ground speed at 3 knots we had no choice but to roll in the gib and stick the engine on, a pity but it was better light winds at the end than a gale!

As we were getting close to Panama I spotted more boats so the luxury of being able to monitor them with the radar was a real bonus. At night I find it really hard to judge distance. There was one very large boat that stayed parallel with us for a good 20 minutes (this was before I put the radar on. I don’t like to use it too much as I start worrying when I see a boat 24 miles away) I took a bearing and it didn’t appear to have moved (I like to try the old fashioned methods first) and then I decided to check his distance on the radar, he was 6 miles away but looked like only half a mile from us!

An uneventful night but I enjoyed being skipper by monitoring our track against our course and making changes to our course when “Charlie” our autopilot wandered. It’s amazing much he does wander, only a few degrees but he does.

Pete got up at 12:30am and took over for our 8-hour journey to the entrance of Panama.


The night was uneventful. A bit of breeze kicked in for about half an hour giving us up to 8 knots with the engine just set at cruising speed. After that, the wind died and I re-stowed the jib again.

26th March 2007

I got up at 07:00am (I went to bed at 1:45am) and the sky was black, rain clouds everywhere, welcome to the Panama! Not a pretty coastline but we never to expected it to be!

Pete……. (It poured down and all the large ships that were going hither and thither disappeared into the thick torrential rain. I stayed on deck and Fliss shut herself in to make her breakfast! The radar was pretty pointless as the rain blacked-out the entire screen even though I had set the “rain filter” on maximum, so it was a case of keeping my eyes peeled in all directions ready to avoid any looming behemoth. )

When we were 3 miles off the breakwater Pete called up Christobel Signal Station requesting permission to enter. He tried a couple of times and then he got a response.
The signal operator said “You may enter but take care of the traffic” you can understand his concern as we both counted 25 super tankers milling around the entrance and more traffic inside the breakwater.

It was very easy finding our way in and quickly found a spot to anchor (after a tour of the anchorage of course) lucky really since, as soon as the anchor was secure, the heavens opened and it RAINED!!!! Not just a shower but a torrential downpour!

After an hour on so the skies started to clear and we decide to make a run for land.

Off 1st to immigration armed with all our paperwork. The official came as a surprise as he actually smiled! He needs re-training in the art of being surly and unreasonable.

The rest of the day was a complete blur as after he stamped our passport he ordered a taxi to help us complete the rest of the formalities.

A very stiff backed chap called “Agent Ellerton” told us that, he would take us through the procedures, he was a whirlwind! 1st stop photocopy shop to copy our passports and ships registration document, then customs, then off to get our cruising permit, then off to another shop to get passport photos, then off to Admeasurer to arrange for the boat to be measured for the transit of the canal and second to last stop Immigration to get our visa (the 1st immigration chap was just to stamp that we had arrived). Pete opened our plastic wallet to get our passports out and nearly had a heart attack his passport was missing!!!!! A mild moment of immense stress, checking & re-checking the bag we decided that it must have been left at the photocopy shop. So off we all went again, thank god it was there!! “Agent Ellerton” who was once in the American Marines and kept referring to me as Maam was brilliant as a guide within an hour and a half we had completed all the formalities. The last stop was the supermarket to pick up supper. His services were invaluable as there was no way you would find your way around as all the places we needed to visit where a long way apart, we think that the Panama authority’s keep it this way to make jobs for the local people.

Colon, the guide book says it not a safe place to walk around and this was echoed by our guide “Agent Ellerton” he said “Sir, Maam see that road there do not walk there, this is drug street and they will attack you for money… and it continued “Sir, Maam, do not walk here this is pickpocket road and last week and American man was stabbed in his knees for his wallet” he said that we must take a taxi everywhere (taxi’s are not expensive at $1 Dollar a go) as the locals will not bother you. According to him Colon was a much safer place when the Americans where her but now it has just fallen apart with bent officials and crooked Police. Shame we can’t explore as the place looks really interesting but its better to heed the advice given and keep well clear unless in a taxi.

The cruising permit office had a big board showing names of boats that had tried to avoid completing the formalities and had been caught by the Coastguard trying to get through the canal; these boats face a fine of $6500 and are impounded until you pay up. If you try to get on the boat whilst its impounded and break the Police seal you either pay an additional fine or go to prison for 90 days…. Seems daft to run the risk as, with a guide, its painless and easy. We recognised a boats’ name on the board.

Back at the Yacht Club Pete and I decided to have a beer and try to get to know some of the other Yachties.

The beer at $1 a bottle was reasonable so we sat down chatting to an Ozzie couple on a catamaran who where due to transit the canal on Saturday. They had two line handlers confirmed and where looking for another one but would if pushed take another couple. We said that we would be willing to help and would push our transit time back to the middle of next week (it looks like there’s a weeks delay into getting through). His concern is with taking another two, was space & weight on the boat as he didn’t really have a powerful engine, if you lag behind during the transit and don’t keep a constant speed of 6+ there are serious fines to be paid. He tipped us off and said when the Ad Measurer turns up tell them that you can maintain 8 knots otherwise there are additional costs to be paid.

Whilst sitting with the Ozzie couple a young man arrived asking if anyone needed a line handler. He was very dishevelled, with torn clothing which were very dirty, he had been travelling on a motor bike through Colombia (very brave), he seemed pleasant enough but I said to Pete and he agreed that we wouldn’t just take anyone as this is our home and we do have to live with any old person for 2 days… we’ll have to do our recruitment soon but I think we should be selective and not get desperate as you can always hire local people to do it at $55 a day. The 1st Immigration guy offered us his services & “Agent Ellerton” offered to be our pilot… we won’t be pushed into anything and we’ll take our time.

Pete was very tired so after an hour or so we returned to Nadezhda to put her back to normal (during passage we sleep in the middle of Naz so inside its slightly chaotic on passage).

27th March 07

The Ozzie man came over this morning and said sorry but they really only wanted one other person and if Pete still wanted to do it no problem and to let him know by the end of the day.

Pete wouldn’t leave me here for 2 and half days as what would I do with myself whilst he was gone? I couldn’t go into town as it’s not safe plus he really would prefer that we both went together. It looks unlikely that we will get a test run as were not sticking around that long and most of the other boats have arranged line-handlers.

The Ad Measurer is due sometime this morning then it’s off to the bank to pay our transit fee and insurance.

Tonight we’ll head off to the Yacht Club so socialise.


Tidying up last night involved folding and stowing the sail, getting all out ropes out and measuring them and erecting the sun shades.

I had bought an extra 100 metres of rope in St Maarten – you need 4 lengths of 125 feet. I laid this on the deck and chopped into 2 pieces and then got out my other two long lengths. Unfortunately, these just weren’t long enough and so we will have to hire two lengths of rope for transit.

Stuck in the mud and more maintenance

14th March 07 (continued)

The day started with us motoring from Antigua to Sint Maarten across a glassy sea. At about lunchtime, the wind picked up and veered so we promptly raised all sail and knocked along nicely on a broad reach at about 5-6 knots. Eventually the wind came right around behind us so we took the jib in and carried on with mainsail only until the wind died again and we dropped the main and started the engine again.

During the whole day, the wind was very variable and later on it backed and gave us a broad reach. Since it was so fluky, we simply unrolled the headsail alongside the staysail and left the main firmly stowed. It was going to be dark soon and we did not want to be faffing about with the mainsail at night.

At 17:30 the wind picked up and we were barrelling along at 7.5 knots with full jib, staysail and the engine on tickover. Fliss echoed my thoughts by suggesting that the jib should be reefed a bit so we rolled a few turns in it and felt more comfortable even though the boat speed was unaffected.

Just after dark, a series of squalls came barrelling through and we turned on the radar to watch their progress. Funny how the ones that the radar picked up were all headed our way! The wind gradually increased until we decided to roll a few more turns on the headsail – to less than a third of its full size and we still managed to hit over 8 knots at times on a very close reach. Things were starting to get a bit boisterous but luckily, we had some respite for a time as we passed in the lee of St Barts where the seas flattened out a bit. Then it was back out into the open for the last 12 mile dash for Sint Maarten.

A larger boat was gaining slowly on us behind and just pipped us to the post as we entered the safety of Simson bay. It was a wooden ketch about 70 foot long called Norwind from Cowes built in 1939 – Looks like a sleek racing yacht of yesteryear (see Aussie Bloke below).

We arrived at 02:00 and, just as we were about to anchor, an unlit large RIB came roaring up and burned our eyeballs with a high intensity searchlight. There are a lot of super-yachts here and security seems tight!


A bit boisterous Pete! We spoke to yachtie here in St Maartan who said that in the St Barts anchorage he got up due to the wind speeds to check his anchor and was recording wind speeds of 30 knots so out at sea it really was quite windy. Pete tried to ease the situation by saying that it was a good force 4, where did I leave my banana boat?. It was a gruelling 8 hours of strong winds and lashing rain, thank god the seas were reasonable as the experience could have even more of an nightmare. We have experienced stronger winds but not for a long time.


It MUST have been a force 4. The two sources of weather information that I downloaded told us it was only 15 knots of wind!

15th March 07 – The Saga continues……………or stops?

We needed to get into a large landlocked lagoon where the rigging specialist suggested it would be easier to work on the mast. So, we awoke at 08:00 so that we would be in time to slug some coffee and ready the boat to enter when the lifting bridge opened at 09:30.

Everything went smoothly but the anchorage here is very full and we nosed around for a short while before spotting a reasonable space. I had to swing Naz around in a tight circle to get the nose into wind before dropping the anchor and was just about to execute the manoeuvre when I noticed another yacht heading for the same spot. He was already aligned for it and so I took Naz close to one side of him to turn around his back end and go and search elsewhere.

We came to a slithering stop! Firmly aground on the shoals that I had already steered a wide berth of when coming into the lagoon! The reality was that I was too busy focusing on avoiding the other, much larger, boat that I did not have my eye on the depth-sounder. No matter how much I played the engine, we were well and truly aground with a mild list to leeward.

Scene 2 - Enter the cavalry!

Brian – English single hander on a 55 foot boat. He was on the yacht we were trying to avoid, apparently he draws the same depth as us and he had no problems.

Roxanne and Bill – American – Yacht as yet unknown

Larry – American – on the tri-maran that was quite happily sitting over the shallows that we were stuck on.

Ozzy Bloke (cameo part) – he was skipper of Norwind who was anchored less than 100 metres away.

So, Roxanne and Bill were first on the scene and offered to pull the nose sideways to deeper water with their 30hp outboard. We got a line to them and whilst I played the engine, they pulled hard sideways. Yes, some movement but we simply spun around a bit and stuck fast again. We had a few more attempts but failed to budge poor Naz.

Next, we got out our kedge anchor and a long line. Brian took the anchor out and dropped it and we used the windlass to grind ourselves free. The anchor failed to bite first time but on the second attempt it bit in hard. Great…….give a bit of grunt on the windlass and we are out of here! We took up the slack, applied a bit of tension, pulled hard and then the windlass gave in – completely. I hand-cranked it until the line was bar-taut and still no sign of movement

Brian suggested that he take a line from his boat that was now anchored just ahead of us and pull us forward with his engine. So, with Roxanne and Bill pushing our stern with their powerful dinghy, Fliss on our engine, Brian pulling with his and me hauling the anchor we HEAVED!


Strategy #3 – lean the boat over so the keel lifts as the weight of the boat is taken by the side of the hull.

I produced another anchor and attached it to the longest line we have to the spinnaker halyard (coming from the top of the mast). Larry took it out as far as possible and dropped it and I winched hard to pull the mast towards the anchor. Unfortunately, with the mast being 60 feet above sea level, we did not have enough line to do the job and the anchor (heavy CQR variety) did not bite. So Larry agreed to haul on the line with his own powerful RIB (funny how the Americans have bigger and more powerful?). We tried the same configuration of all pulling and pushing at the same time.


We had another Pow-Wow. I decided that more lean was required to un-stick the keel and so swung the boom out sideways. Aussie Bloke appeared and we tried the same configuration with me sitting on the end of the boom, Aussie Bloke hanging from the end of it, Larry pulling hard at the top of the mast, Roxanne and Bill pushing sideways from the stern, Brian pulling hard from his boat and Fliss giving some welly on the engine. Slowly, slowly, slowly, we moved and were suddenly free!!!!!

End of scene – Nearly

We retrieved, stowed or gave back all the kit that had been deployed whilst still attached by line to Brian. Very nice of him to let us hang on his boat for a while whilst we sorted ourselves out. Without a windlass motor, we had to hand crank the main anchor. We had never done this before and I showed Fliss the essentials of manually opening the clutch mechanism etc etc. I left the clutch free-spinning and ready to go and we dropped the line from Brian to go and find peace and solitude somewhere else. Just then, Fliss prepared the anchor in the usual way by canting it over the roller. With the clutch running free, the anchor barrelled over the side and dumped 15 meters of chain over the side. Did I mention that it had been pissing with rain for almost the whole two hours of this procedure? We were very close to other yachts and worried about the wind (yes, it was still very gusty) pushing us onto other boats. Eventually, Fliss nudged the boat so that I could hand-crank the anchor back in and we scuttled away, red faced, to our quiet corner.

Having got the windlass manual out and located the cut-out switch, we found there was no damage there – relief!! However, we have only just anti-fouled the bottom and we are now wondering whether there is any left on the keel since we have probably scuffed it all off on the gloopy goop to which we were well and truly stuck. Only a dive down and examination will tell and the lagoon here is too murky to contemplate this. We will wait until Panama and see what’s what…

Customs now completed, rigging man coming tomorrow morning, grey and drizzly here yet we must now go and find our saviours to thank them.

Maintenance Time

5th, 6th & 7th March 07

We took Robyn and Holly to the airport at 19:00 to catch the flight home. When we arrived, there was quite a queue at the check-in desk and a BA representative was asking for volunteers to take the flight the next day. The deal was that they would put you up in a hotel with all expenses paid and also pay £250 on top as “spending/bribery money”.

Both the girls wanted to take the opportunity but unfortunately Bobby is too young to stay in a hotel on her own, her school were already having fits about the amount of time she had been having off and the following evening was the time when Bobby needed to meet the staff to discuss her choices of subjects for the following two years.


Poor little Bobs our heart really went out to her, it was awful seeing her off at the airport, goodbyes are hard enough!


So, Bobby was unhappily packed off onto the ‘plane and a happy Holly was sent off to her hotel at Jolly Harbour. Life simply isn’t fair when you’re 14 years old!

Coincidentally, on the 7th March, we had booked to have an engine service at Jolly Harbour and so we sailed around there from English Harbour on the 6th and met Holly there in the afternoon. She had been told that BA had been bunking people off flights all week and that it was expected to continue for a few more days. Therefore, she was looking forward to going back to the airport, another day in a hotel and another £250.

At 7pm on the 6th, Fliss went with Holly to the airport in the courtesy cab but returned about 9:30pm on her own. The information given was incorrect and a very sad Holly had to return home.


It was a horrible experience for both us, I had a gut feeling that it was too good to be true and I told Hols not to build her hopes up too much, anyway I was right and poor Hols was devastated and on her way back to Blighty. I did offer to pay for her to change her flight again but Hols said she didn’t want to have to go through it all again in a couple of days… bless her!! Once she gets home and sees her boyfriend “Leon” she’ll feel much better.

I love having visitors over but its always hard on me when they go, it sets me back for a while until I get over the homesickness. I need to move as soon as people leave so that it takes my mind off it.


The next day, we parked Nadezhda at the works berth and had our engine serviced. The guy doing it asked if we had the necessary filters and oil – which we did and he proceeded to use all our spare supplies doing the job. “No problem” I thought as we can go and get some more, but unfortunately, Volvo spares are not obtainable in Antigua! I wonder why these Volvo approved engineers do not carry their own spares???? What would have happened if I did not? This is the Caribbean way!!

With fast appearing new growth on Nadezhda’s freshly cleaned bottom, we also decided to haul-out and re-antifoul and therefore spent the rest of the day getting quotes from Harris Boat Services, the marina. The cost was very high but the breakdown showed that the majority of this was antifouling paint. In the UK, I buy the cheapest at around £40 per Imperial gallon. Here, the cheapest is £100 per US gallon (which is much smaller than Imperial. Well, we must get it done before the Pacific and so we bit the bullet and swallowed the cost.

8th March to 14th March 07

We motored around to the lifting bay and were hauled out using a Travel-Lift. I had to keep an eye on the launching team. We were transferred from the Travel Lift to a tow trailer and they almost lifted Naz by her fridge heat-exchanger but I stopped them before they applied pressure. Then, they reversed Naz up a slight incline and were millimetres from grinding the bottom into the ground before I had to stop them again. Also, they did not suggest that I remove the log rotor but I had done that already. Very different to England

Since our immigration for said we were due to leave on the 5th, I went into English Harbour customs on the 1st and asked for an extension. They said it was fine but to come back if we overstayed the 10th, he did not bother marking my form with any evidence. Since we are in Jolly Harbour, I went to the immigration there just to check that all was ok and to ask for a few more days contingency. The two guys there were the usual miserable jobs-worths and argued with us and with themselves for half an hour before saying that we could stay until the 13th. If the boat is not ready then we must leave the country by any means and then return. This was after they had already said that they were not authorised to grant extensions!! Anyway, it looks as though we are on schedule - fingers crossed!

The main part of the hull was quickly sanded-back but it appeared that the guys were not going to do the fiddly areas which needed hand-sanding and so in the evening, I got to it and prepared the rest of the hull. Unfortunately, they had sanded some areas a little too vigorously and the bottom therefore needed priming. On the 9th, the hull was primed but needed 14 hours before overcoating.

On the 10th, a guy came to apply the first coat of antifouling. He did not seem to be too enthusiastic and after 3 and a half hours, I was concerned that he was getting too much paint on the topsides and not enough on the bottom. My very expensive paint was applied too thick in some areas and too thin in others and so I took the job off him and finished the job myself. The next day, the manager applied the next coat and finished in under an hour and a half and did a very good job


Today I booked my flights back to the UK for Christmas, I’ll leave Auckland on the 20th and arrive in the UK on the 21st. It’s a shame that Pete’s not coming back but I think he’s glad to have the peace & quiet to do the boat work. I will miss him as by the time I fly back we would have lived in each others pockets for a year and a half. It’ll strange for the both of us. Before I leave I’ll get a wad of take out menus for him.


We re-launched on the 12th at about lunch-time and picked-up a mooring in Jolly Harbour to clean the sanding-dust and grunge off the decks and everywhere else. Our property in England is in the process of being re-rented (after 2 months vacant!!) and so Fliss sorted out getting the house details printed, signed countersigned and faxed back to Manns. In the end, the job done on Naz was not too bad but has cost us an arm and a leg in antifouling paint. I wish we had the foresight to have bought some with us at a third of the cost.

On the morning of the 13th, we cleared Port Control, Immigration and Customs with the usual hassle and scowling faces and sailed around to Five Islands Bay which is just North of Jolly Harbour. It is quiet there and we are out of sight of customs since we did not plan to leave until the following morning for Aruba.

As is usual before a long sail, I went up the mast to do a rigging inspection. Right at the top, there is a bronze sheave that guides the jib halyard onto its roller. This sheave was almost completely worn through and so we spent a frantic afternoon trying to locate rigging specialists en-route to the Panama. We found a chap in Aruba who said he could do it but would probably have to order the part + rivets. So, I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the muck off the topsides.

Today, the 14th, we got up early with a new plan. St Maarten is supposed to be the centre for boat work in the Caribbean and I awoke early to research this. We found a rigging specialist who said he would probably have the parts in stock and, if he didn’t, he could make the part quickly. We have booked his services for tomorrow morning and are now motoring gently on a windless glassy sea towards St Maarten (about 90 miles).


We were nervous about being illegally in Antiguan waters as knowing the Customs & Immigration they would have had a field day with us. So we both decided it was better to get going as quickly as possible. I had a sleepless night as the anchorage was really rolly. The plan is to get the work done ASAP and head for the Panama Canal (just over a thousand miles) going to St Maartans maybe isn’t such a bad plan anyway as it keep us off the Venezuelan coast (potential pirate area) and the winds around the head lands there can exceed 30 knots.

Antigua has been wonderful and the people are amazing (apart from officials). We have so many memories and it’s been lovely having people out here. The sea is THE most beautiful colour we both one-day to come back again.