Landlubber’s Life

“Oceans apart,

Day after day,

And I slowly go insane….”

This 80s ballad by Richard Marks succinctly describes many of our recent land bound months. Travel restrictions, particularly Australian border closures and arrival caps put us exactly here…. oceans apart, day after day….. and you know the rest. After leaving the boat and converting our sea legs to land limbs in Sweden, I went home to Oz, and Magnus followed, eventually.

I arrived in Australia after 3 cancelled flights, and Magnus had the same experience. We both had an OK experience in hotel quarantine served in Sydney, as Melbourne was not accepting any international arrivals at the time. I was madly arranging birthday celebrations remotely and attempting to walk the Camino de Santiago virtually; (in increments of 10 meters pacing up and down my room until I had blisters from all the pivoting on hotel carpet!) and Magnus improved his ping pong considerably thanks to VR.

The feeling of wind in my hair as I stepped outside after 2 weeks of not so much as an open window was bliss. The quarantine was mandatory, so there is nothing to discuss really. In truth, we were both pretty happy to get to Australia after all the difficulties.

Our year on land passed pleasantly. The Swedish winter was shrouded in COVID restrictions, so social gatherings were held outside to minimse risk. This meant eating, drinking, and making merry IN THE SNOW! C’est la vie. Magnus spent a cosy white Christmas with family, and skiing and skating on the lake made for some glorious winter days.

In contrast, the Melbourne summer proved predictably warm, and included milestone family birthdays (21 and 80) and a BABY being born! The celebrations were wedged between and within tough COVID lockdowns. The lockdowns have thankfully finished, but were relentless; totalling 262 days since March 2020. This meant most people (including me) worked from home, with very few acceptable reasons to leave one’s own property, and even then remaining within 5km of home.

There grew a deep weariness, and many people did it tough. Homeschooling is not easy, and of course many businesses did not survive. Vaccination uptake was frustratingly slow, so the lockdowns continued. Magnus and I became vaccination evangelists; give us 5 minutes and we would launch into a zealous frenzy of pro vax arguments. I am not sure this helped Australia’s vax statistics; but not for want of trying on our part.

When Magnus returned to Sweden ahead of me, he walked into almost total freedom – and must have breathed a deep sigh of relief. Accordingly, I lived somewhat vicariously, marvelling at people out AT RESTAURANTS for goodness’ sake!! And of course many other normal social experiences that remained far out of reach in Melbourne.

When I arrived a bit later, I felt quite under dressed sans facial covering, and still sometimes find myself fumbling in my pocket for a mask as I enter a shop.

This habit will no doubt come in handy as we travel south to warmer climes to resume life on Almazul for Season 2. Masks are still required in many circumstances in Curacao, so in our preparation for leaving Sweden, we have stashed our remaining mask cache amongst the many boat parts. Our effort to balance clothes, shoes, sailing requisites, and boat parts in our allotted baggage limits is a physical and psychological wrestle. (For me anyway – I am not quite as content as the Captain to wear ONE pair of shorts for 14 months…. but hey, each to their own!)

SOME NEW EXPERIENCES:

  • We took up cycling with zeal in Australia during lock down. I am a newbie really, but my foldable bike experience in Spain and Swedish cycle commuting proved better then nowt, and Magnus discovered that it is “just like riding a bike” actually. We bought old bikes from the local men’s shed, and did our best to give them a good hiding! The hills around Clematis are unforgiving, and quite a tough initiation, but certainly helped the old knees develop a more youthful demeanor, eventually.
  • Living in the cellar – renting Magnus’ house out has been a great solution, and the small apartment in the cellar is perfect for short stays, and gives us both freedom to roam AND a home base in Sweden.
  • Going to a game of ice hockey. Kindly escorted by neighbors, I REALLY enjoyed the exciting game, atmosphere, dining experience, and cheer squad efforts. Importantly, the home team were definitively victorious. Go guldsvart!
  • Being a Grandma….. I am teary and smiling as I write this. The joy, and love for all concerned is quite overwhelming. After tearing myself away from hands on grand mothering, I am mastering reading stories over video chat, and my wavering renditions of “Kumbaya” from the other side of the globe still induce heavy eyelids apparently.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Best:

  • Being with our respective families, including the baby…. (We have to take turns with families obviously – but are figuring things out.)

Worst/Funniest:

  • Melbourne lockdown. The jokes about working from home dress codes etc wore thin, and going out to dinner became a bucket list item. But… our little household developed a routine, sharing cooking, exercise, movies, and the responsibility to come up with an idea for “something fun” once a week. We had zoom chats of course, and also held “Murder Mystery” evenings with family remotely, complete with dress ups, props, and accents. Two of my nephews floored us by revealing a remarkable talent for accents. One was a faultless Texan drawl, and the other a uncannily accurate Scottish lilt, probably reminiscent of his great grandfather.

FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Fondue – for fun this winter we tried a recipe given to us by a passionate Swiss foodie whilst in Guadeloupe. Perfect!
  • Swedish pizza in Australia, in a Chinese restaurant. The owner had lived in Luleå for 20 years, and had added the Swedish pizza as a successful side hustle to his otherwise eastern menu.
  • New Australian wine fave; Pepperjack Grenache. We have long since appreciated the McLaren Vale Shiraz from the same stable, but the Grenache was a revelation! Ours was a 2020. (Absurdly, this was first sampled from the Swedish government controlled bottle shop, Systembolaget.)
  • Sushi and taco bowls. These delights were prepared by Bonnie – highly recommended!
  • Blueberry muffins, a la Lara. All the good stuff, none of the bad – AND delicious!

FUN FACTS:

We are about to depart Sweden (av temp between 0-6 c ATM) for Almazul, in Curacao (average temp 26-30 c). I am imagining our arrival at the airport as a stripping frenzy, as we panic to shed the heavy duty warm jackets and multiple other suffocating layers. Well me, anyway.

Talk soon xxx

Out of the frypan and into the fridge…. from this to THIS

After leaving the womblike warmth and humidity of Curacao in mid September, we have had to wrap up and toughen up for Autumn in Sweden. The crisp mornings, piercing afternoon breezes, cosy candle lit evenings, and saunas are as far from the Caribbean as one can imagine. The contrast gently reminds us to appreciate the beauty of wherever we are, right now.

Whilst on land we have tried to “live lightly” to continue the frugal and sustainable habits honed on the boat – and generally speaking, this has gone well. Apparently it is a common experience among boaters to live more thoughtfully, simply, sustainably, contentedly, HAPPILY….needing less, consuming less, recycling more, and DOING more when back on land. (this even extended to ME cutting Magnus’s hair, maybe not our best idea ever!) However, despite our good intentions, we have found ourselves slipping occasionally….shopping at Ikea, and buying a car. Oops a daisy!

Some new experiences have included:

  • Buying a Volvo, therefore becoming a “Volvo driver” which is a “thing” in some circles in Australia. Hmmm, I am ready. It was second hand, but of course well designed, practical, and full of features. Our favorite aspects of owning a car again vary- Magnus likes the freedom, especially from grocery shopping on the bike, and I like the heated seats. Priorities…
  • Lobster fishing…..what a fantastic experience! We pulled up 16 (yes, 16!) lobster during our 3 hour fishing trip. We were a bit lucky I think, because the boat’s engine had been playing up during the week, so the fisherman had left the lobster pots unattended for a little longer than usual. Lucky us! The trip was shared with dear friends, on an island on the west coast of Sweden. We ate many delicious things (lobster, obviously) and a highlight must have been home shot moose, home cured and served with Japanese condiments. Talk about East meets west! (Or should I say north?) It was divine – thanks Anders and Lola. And of course we were obliged to indulge in the crazy Nordic pastime of roasting in a sauna, then plunging into icy cold water. (I must admit have actually grown to love this, and now stay in the water longer than some Swedes I know!) The island’s stark rocky landscape seemed like the kind of place that would coax a novel out of anyone, and very nearly did from Anki! I would not be surprised if she pens her debut novel here. All in all we had a fantastic weekend with some truly lovely people, eating decadently, and enjoying the chilly Autumn weather.
  • “Svampplockning” / mushroom picking. A perfectly Autumnal activity, including a bracing ramble through the forest, eyes down, focus sharp. Those little mushrooms are EXACTLY the same colour as the fallen birch leaves that carpet the forest floor, and are all but indistinguishable. It was frigid in the shade of the birch and fir forest, but we got a good haul of Autumn Chanterelles, despite our frozen fingers and toes. We ate them in a cream sauce on toast. Delish!
  • Celebrating my birthday Swedish style, with Princess cake in bed. Heavenly.

WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS:

Best:

  • Catching up with other fellow boat buddies right here, in person, in Sweden; and/or virtually when distance or pandemic recommendations required. You forge deep connections with others on boats, especially if you also have other things in common as well as the strong shared experiences of general boat life, hard weather, etc. Dinners, walks, coffee, chats – we so appreciate the ongoing friendships that we have made as an unexpected dimension of our cruising life. It was sooooo nice to talk to them again, as we quickly picked up where we left off – albeit with us wearing pale faces and long sleeves in Autumnal Sweden, and some of our besties still brown as berries and glowing with good health in the balmy evenings of southern Spain, Caribbean etc.
  • Playing padel with some of our aforementioned new friends. Padel seems to be a tennis/squash hybrid, great fun and an efficient way to begin to recommission our almost superfluous legs.
  • Visiting friends in Gothenburg, and engaging in ANOTHER bewildering Swedish pastime “taking a bath” (swim) even in the winter. I was very surprised to discover that stripping off and getting into the water when it was about 9 degrees is not so bad! It was actually a bit warmer in the water than out. I was even more surprised when a whole family; grandpa grandma, uncles, aunties, toddlers – the whole shebang, ALSO came down for a swim! They were obviously professionals, because they teamed themal hats with their swimwear. I shook my head in disbelief! I had hitherto thought that only a handful of particularly crazy people did this but apparently not. These Vikings are tough!
  • Sailing in Lake Mälaren again! Our dear friends from Lazy 🐸 understood our deep yearning for the water, and took us on their boat to an island for a crayfish party! We had missed the traditional time of year for that kind of shenanigans, but they had especially saved some crayfish caught and prepared by the family for us! As always, much fun, laughter, good food, heartwarming chats and of course, sauna. And as a bonus, some ripping sailing on the way, minus waves!
  • The simple pleasure of greeting back on the bicycle! I LOVE cycling around town doing the shopping, errands etc. So convenient, and feels good for me AND the planet.

Worst;

  • Cancelling a long anticipated get together with some boat friends. This was absolutely necessary due to strengthened COVID recommendations, so we caught up on zoom, but not quite the same.

Funniest:

  • Our lobster fishing crew bursting into song often during our weekend away. This amused me and warmed my heart in equal measures; such unabashed joy!
  • An impromptu waltz performed on the lobster boat, by Lola and the fisherman! Beautiful, and accompanied by spontaneous choral accompaniment.
  • Being asked at the cinema if I would like the seniors discount. Hmm. After some discussion about whether I was old enough (which was more awkward for the polite young cashier than it was for me!) we established that I could, indeed, have the seniors discount if I wanted it, so I accepted graciously. A new opportunity!

Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • Bistro Vinoteket. If you are EVER in Västerås, it is a must. We visited as a very belated birthday celebration (a gift from Australia) for Magnus, and the tasting menu was absolutely superb. Interesting wine from around the world, teamed with delicious tastes of all sorts of local produce. Have you ever teamed sake with cheese? Or tried Iranian wine? Me neither until now.
  • A truly delightful meal prepared by friends of sourdough pizza, with Västerbotten cheese, creme fraiche, roe and dill, followed by a mussel and white wine pasta dish, finished perfectly with fruit salad, served with a secret creamy accompaniment. Mums! (Yum!) Thanks Alex and Annika!
  • The Japanese style cured moose mentioned earlier.
  • Lobster, obviously!
  • Home caught and prepared local crayfish.
  • Masala sauce made from scratch for the first time.
  • Hamburger from a local burger shack. You know its good when juice runs down your arm!

Boat work: (remote)

  • Mapping, research, arranging maintenance and works to be done.

Quirky Curacao swansong

After dodging hurricanes, then pirates; we arrived in relatively quiet Curacao; our swan song port of call in chapter 1 of our SwedeOz adventure.

(Excuse the forthcoming patronising tone as I proceed to spell this phonetically for the Aussies. This is so that if, like me, you have been mispronouncing this your whole life, you may go forth well and truly corrected. It is generally pronounced “Koo-rah-saw” as opposed to the Aussie adaptation; “Koo-rah-kayo.” You’re welcome. I know you will feel much better if you ever find yourself ordering a Blue Lagoon again. Patronising tone over for now, I promise!)

After setting off from Grenada in convoy, we landed here after a lazy 4 day sail west, undertaken with our friends on Delphinus. We were happy to sail together for fun, and also because piracy is a slim possibility in nearby waters. With this in mind we took the safest option and stayed as far off the Venezuelan coast as possible, and travelled with minimal lights, low wattage radio, and no AIS running. We will never know whether these tactics were necessary – but definitely made sense at the time. After an uneventful sail, we were pleased to arrive in the busy atmosphere of the anchorage at Spanish Waters. A lively European/Caribbean fusion at its best: it felt like life was going on unabated here, with few COVID19 related restrictions visible. Wealthy Dutch holiday makers were zooming around on jetskis, and chartered “party boats” regularly thumped past with music blaring, and bather clad youngters lounging around the deck. We were in the centre of a sprawling waterway which is only accessed by a long narrow channel from the sea, so it is very well protected. We were surrounded by other boats, and around the shoreline lay a multitude of resort complexes, many empty due the quarantine requirements on the island.

We decided to come here after a limbo period in Grenada; including a close call with the aforementioned hurricane, no valid insurance at that latitude, and only a shaky possibility of flying home.

Since arrival, we have been sauntering (then dashing) around the island preparing to leave Almazul ”on the hard” as they say in boat speak. It is a strange feeling temporarily farewelling Almazul after 14 months living aboard, for now but wow, what a ride!

Curacao is one of the ABC islands just north of Venezuela, and is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Leeward Antilles.

Curacao boasts the highest standard of living in Caribbean, and has a few strings to its economy including petroleum refinery and shipment, tourism, and of course Curacao production. (FYI the orange flavoured liqueur comes in four different colours, not only the sublime aqua blue that we all know and love.) The different colours are purely “for cocktail fun” according to our Curacao advisor. It also comes in tamarind, chocolate, and coffee flavours, and they are ALL good.

Our explorations around the island revealed countless incredible beaches, and snorkelling second to none. (Although people assure us that this is NOTHING compared to Bonaire…) The city of Willemstad is pretty; a mini Amsterdam? Inland is quite dry; cactus country actually… but no tequila production we are aware of. We had a small project to determine which cacti are toxic, and which are not. We figured if we were to play Russian Roulette by ingesting any cacti in the course of our research, we have just the man for the job. Magnus has survived an incident with a Manchineel apple (did I mention it is the most deadly fruit in the WORLD!!) – so the cactus toxin did not scare him. Fortunately we left the island before our research was completed, or any hospitalization required.

Some new experiences included:

  • A windsurfing lesson! Nearly 40 years after my last attempt; and 20 years since Magnus cut a dashing swathe through the tranquil waters of Lake Mälaren. The lesson was super fun, and it didn’t take long for Magnus to display his former prowess on the board, and I got along quite well too. The young man helping us was concerned about us hurting ourselves,  but very kind and cautiously encouraging nonetheless. (We have come to understand that when trying any new activity, if we are older than our coach’s parents…. we are obviously SERIOUSLY old, and consequently in grave danger of really hurting ourselves at any moment. Surreptitiously they think that we should really be playing lawn bowls by now, but unfortunately we still suffer remnants of adrenaline addiction, and so hang on to our “crazy ideas” of being active for a little while longer….. !)

Best:

  • Celebrating our friend Lee’s birthday Caribbean style! The fun began with some magnificent snorkelling and then a cold bevvy in a quirky, ramshackle little bar of sorts on the beach, followed by a dinghy tour of millionaires row complete with red wine in hand, and an informative commentary from the Captain. (see video) The day concluded perfectly with dinner by candlelight at a cosy waterside restaurant, including the obligatory cocktail containing Curacao. (incidentally, of an unrepeatable name! Aren’t they all!?!)
  • Snorkelling. At a place called Tugboat beach, the fish were so blasé about humans drifting around an old sunken wreck, they actually bumped into our snorkelling masks. Instead of avoiding us, the tropical beauties seemed to gather around like curious chooks.
  • Swimming in Blue room Cave; a spectacular sea cave. Depending on the tide, to enter you must dive underwater for about a meter to clear the entrance. Once past the low mouth, you emerge into an azure blue “room”, a little like The Blue Grotto of Capri, but a lower ceiling. The incredibly beautiful colour and light and the gentle movement of the water and resident tropical fish made for a veritable visual feast.
  • Visiting various stunning beaches along the west coast. All scenic, all different. Some were deep little indentations in the rocky coastline, affording warm rock pool swimming in water so clear that it was impossible to determine the depth. Waist deep appeared ankle deep. Some were endless stretches of white sand, lapped at by twinkling turquoise water, and some were shaded alcoves of jade green, fringed by ribbons of golden sand and swaying palm trees. Some beaches had shallow coral reefs that harboured hordes of brightly coloured fish, and suddenly dropped away to  sapphire blue depths. The frequent presence of thatched umbrellas just added to the visual magic.
  • We also enjoyed resuming some level of physical activity, by adding some very light running to our relaxed schedule. The workload was magnified by the litres of water shed per minute or so.
  • Catching 2 fish en route from Grenada to Curacao – it was quite some time since we caught a fish, and the fresh mahi mahi did not disappoint. We had plenty to share with our neighbors, and made a fave cerviche among other things.
  • Continuing to enjoy the very social and relaxed life that we share with other cruisers. Wherever we anchor the boat, we soon find new buddies, or even better, old ones rediscovered! We were greeted at Curacao by an ebullient Aussie couple who barrelled up in their dinghy to give us the low down on Curacao bureaucratic requirements etc etc. And also tee up a time to have a beer, of course. This kind of greeting happens often, and is a joyous part of this life. We love that social plans can be made spontaneously, and that most others are friendly, interesting, and have time for a chat. We will miss it when we have to begin using diaries to make social plans back in the “real world.”
  • The ceremonial disposal of a much loved (but irreversibly stained and torn) pair of shorts that Magnus wore almost everyday for the past 15 months. They were work shorts, swimming shorts, dinner shorts etc. Extremely versatile, but a little past their due date? To be fair, they were his ONLY shorts after a mystery laundry incident, so although the actual disappearance of his other shorts remains a mystery, I probably have to claim some responsibility for the situation.

Worst:

  • Check in day – a long hot traipse around town by bus, on foot, and finally in desperation, by (very expensive!) taxi. We had to get to three different offices, on a tight time frame due to their weekend office hours, and then one of them was closed. Of course! We were somewhat displeased to have to repeat part of this journey the following day in order to be properly checked into the country. So you can imagine how happy we were when the local OCC chairman offered to run the two Captains into town the next day, and at the same time gave them a mini guided city tour, culminating in a decadent brunch at an upmarket hotel! They were not displeased with this outcome, as you can imagine.

Funniest:

  • Dinghy wrestling, and the complimentary sport of dinghy running, and/or dinghy tug of war. Solving the puzzle presented each time we arrive at our local dinghy dock often involves one or all of these extreme sports; requiring brute strength, cunning, persistence, and balance. Let me explain. Dinghies with outboard motors are every cruisers’ commuting vehicle, and so the dinghy docks are like carparks, but usually comprise of a pontoon, several meters long, that are often empty, but at peak hour, completely overwhelmed, like the Outh Eastern Freeway in Melbourne. It is considerate to tie your dinghy on a long string, so that others can push their way through the maze of dinghies to get to shore and disembark, and so on and so on. BUT the limited capacity, combined with dinghies on short leashes, often necessitates wrestling your way to shore, pulling yourself hand over hand along the other dinghies until it is possible to reach land. Sometimes it is not possible, so then the secondary sport of dinghy running becomes necessary. This is not for the faint hearted, as it involves clambering as quickly and lightly as possible into and over several other dinghies, which form your wobbly access bridge to land. It is important not to get your foot caught in others’ possessions, nor puncture anything, nor fall into the water en route. Once near land, you must clamber up the side of whatever part of the pontoon you have been able to reach and then try to win the tug of war that ensues as you try to pull your own dinghy close enough to tie up to something solid, and consequently enable the other person to also climb ashore. The complete disembarkation may take several trips, depending on how much garbage, laundry, etc we have to carry. When we are both on land, we take a deep breath, fumble around to check that neither phone or keys have fallen into the water, rectify the dishevelment that invariably occurs during any round of dinghy sport, and go forth: triumphant, if a little breathless.

Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • There are so many! We have found Curacao to be a great place to occasionally eat out, even on a tight sailing budget! The service at every restaurant we have visited has been prompt, friendly, attentive and efficient, and the quality of the food belies the tiny cost. A wonderful surprise!
  • And at one such beautifully situated restaurant, we have enjoyed the weekly “cruiser’s dinner.” This event both supports and is supported by the local restaurant, and is organised by a sailor with an interest in building the sailing community bonds in Curacao. Our dining companions were a beguiling mix of locals and visitors, living on boats and on land – but all with fascinating past or present sailing lives. I was particularly impressed by a woman who made her first solo sail to Curacao, alongside her husband in another boat. She had sailed as a first mate for years, but circumstances required her to skipper a boat solo for the first time. I love to be inspired like this… life goals!! Meeting so many amazing 50+ yo women in great health and physical state doing incredible things really inspires me to do more and be better….. the limits are only self imposed I guess, (until health fails big time of course….!)
  • Local delicacies we have tried are funchi; a polenta like dish, local meat balls, and a local sauasage.
  • We have also bought Dutch versions of everyday things; sometimes similar, and sometimes completely unexpected. One day we bought lollies…. licorice actually. Need I say more?
  • Avocado, Hass type! Hallelujah! Cue avo on toast, guacamole, etc etc.. The avocados we have had so far in the Caribbean have been cheap and ENORMOUS! (Some akin to a Sherrin footy) Win win you say? Well…. yes and no actually. The texture is just not as creamy as a Hass. Call me fussy, but I do like a creamy avo on toast. The watery ones just make it soggy. But I know, shut up, first world problem….
  • Blue Curacao. Of course. I know you understand that no explanation is required from a couple whose glory days were in the 80s/90s… As an aside, much of the water around the island is the exact shade of blue Curacao. Nice!

Boat work:

A full clear out and clean. In theory, only items that we would like to find here next time we are aboard remain. Considering we filled the boat from an overstuffed car, and have made multitudes of purchases of both useful and unnecessary equipment over the past 15 months, there is a fair amount of overflow to be dispersed. Dispersal options include; throw out, give away, repurpose, recycle, or carry home in carry on luggage. Needless to say we purchased some luggage allowance on our homeward flights…..

As well as a thorough emptying and cleaning. we;

  • Removed Genoa
  • Cleaned anchor chain
  • Treated teak deck for moss
  • Cleaned, deflated and stowed dinghy
  • Stowed all on deck equipment below; liferaft, table etc etc
  • Removed all canvas
  • Emptied carburetor on dinghy engine
  • Removed halyards
  • Washed all lines/sheets/halyards
  • Washed all cushion covers
  • Thorough clean inside and out.
  • Reorganization of all inside and outside storage
  • Catalogue of everything on the boat
  • Created excel and video inventory – to name a few of our decommissioning tasks!

Fun facts:

Almazul is decommissioned FTM, and stored safely in the hands of Curacao marine. We are both currently in Sweden. So long for now beautiful boat… 😘

Grenada green in quarantine.

Hello lush, green Grenada! The island’s verdant emerald hues greeted us immediately as we tied up at the quarantine dock after a beautifully brisk sail to get here. Watching the sunrise over the island as we approached from the north at dawn felt like a “new beginning.” Post COVID 19 lockdown further north, we were really quite grateful.

On arrival, we summoned our weary bones, donned masks, and went ashore for health checks and strict instructions regarding our conduct for the coming 2 weeks. We were forthwith (on the fifth try!) happily installed in quarantine at anchor, along with the hundreds of other boats keeping out of the way of hurricanes. We whiled away the quarantine period on the boat quietly but happily, and as luck would have it, our closest neighbors were Australian boats. One from Sydney, another from Melbourne, (Phillip Island in fact) and a third built in Brisbane 20 years ago! Our communication during quarantine was restricted to shouting conversations at sunset, and sending photos of each others’ boats and messaging on Instagram. (Thanks for the tip @letsjustgosailing!)

One Aussie couple first sailed in the Caribbean in 1982 👍 and (like many other boats we meet) have been cruising the Caribbean for decades either full or part time ever since.

I must mention our gratitude to the Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG) who lobbied the Government of Grenada on behalf of cruisers and therefore facilitated a carefully staged arrival of yachts despite the country’s borders being closed. This was extremely important, as hurricane season officially runs from June until the end of November, but this year the COVID19 lockdown restrictions and subsequent border closures meant that MANY boats (including us) were (and some still are) stranded at a latitude generally not recommended (read “uninsurable”) at this time of year.

(Particularly pertinently, locals report that this year has seen an unusually active beginning to the hurricane season. It seems to be a year of unprecedented events!)

To cheer us up, the Aussies just kept coming as we moved out of quarantine and into other bays to begin our new plan for a safe hurricane season, and eventual repatriation. I was EXTREMELY chuffed to see so many Antipodeans…. Prior to arriving here I could count the number of other Aus or NZ boats on ONE HAND since leaving Spain. Consequently, as I greet any newfound Antipodeans, I can hear my accent broadening to a yet unheard of twang that any Queenslander with a heavy cold would be proud of.

Since finishing our quarantine, we have been able to move around the island and observe the gradual easing of restrictions, allowing some businesses to resume whilst incorporating the protocols imposed to manage the risks posed by COVID-19. The island is heavily dependent on tourism, and it is difficult to understand how the many resorts, restaurants and associated businesses will survive the country’s protracted closure. The closure of the university has also resulted in a mass exodus – hundreds of student and staff accommodations lay empty, obviously having having a profound flow on effect around the island.

Despite the dire circumstances; we have found Grenada to be very friendly and welcoming, and happily almost devoid of the opportunistic and determined “entrepreneurs” who have often been our somewhat unwelcome companions on other islands.

Some new experiences included:

  • Well, obviously ANOTHER on boat lockdown, this time in the form of a strict 14 day quarantine, and all the associated experiences. We Whattsapped to request assistance with any of our essential needs (groceries, fuel etc) including food delivered by a supermarket. Then a 15 minute dinghy ride into the waves to collect it from where it was left on the quarantine dock. By the time we got back to the boat our groceries and us were completely drenched…but, we had food!
  • Sailing in the vicinity of a mildly active underwater volcano. “Kick ’em Jenny” is off the north west coast of Grenada, and has rumbled 0ver 1000 times this June, compared with an average of 30 times per month. We happened to skirt the 1.5 mile exclusion zone by sheer good luck the first time. Tick. Subsequent passings were undertaken much more carefully.🥺
  • Online live bingo, boatstyle… . I know, I know, if we’re playing Bingo already, lawn bowling is not far away. Despite the obvious slide into the oblivion of sedentary pursuits we VERY much enjoyed a fun evening over the radio playing electronic bingo, complete with humorous pommy caller, (our friend Lee) and appropriate cat calls from players, eg “two little ducks, 22, quack quack!!” You get the picture! It was also amusing to listen to the other players change gear throughout the evening. Many people began the evening with perky enthusiasm, then a little lewdness crept into their radio comments,, then as the end of the evening drew nigh, became somewhat slurry… signs of a successful fundraiser I guess! The money raised from the bingo evenings went to a charity called “Acts of Kindness” which provides food parcels to island families. Business closures have pushed many people into greater need than ever it seems.
  • Participating in a “Get Grenada Swimming- Learn to Swim Week” program; as a volunteer teacher. It is a terrific program aimed at teaching 8000 Grenadians to swim by 2021. Current stats suggest that <15% of residents can swim! It was great fun, and a great way to meet local people; teachers, students, and organisers alike. Students came each day for a week for free lessons and then continue once a week. My students ranged from enthusiastic 8 year olds to a nervous but brave school principal!
  • Participating in a remote “Jam session” that has been part of the lockdown social life here. Personally I am devoid of any musical ability, despite my promising heritage. (Sorry Mum) However; Magnus, Lee from Delphinus and I had fun recording a small snap to contribute. We have prepared our percussion section for our next effort, to feature Kirsty on the pringle tin shaker and triangle I hope!
  • Swimming under a cool waterfall in the hinterland.
  • Doing our first sort of Hash Run. We attempted to join a Hash run in Morocco, but didn’t quite manage, so were even more keen to try here. However, because of the COVID 19 restrictions, regular hashes cannot take place, but a local runner laid a flour trail for anyone to follow anytime, individually. We walked overland from our bay to where we joined the trail, which took us through a Dove Sanctuary, and along some dusty tracks away from the water, as well as more pictureque sections near the sea. It was great to go to new places, and the distance covered in the heat (even walking!) was certainly plenty for our current physical state – remembering that our legs have been almost superfluous for some months!
  • Finding and eating mangos on the side of the road. Soooo good! A perfect mango at the right moment saved us on an extremely long hot walk one day.
  • Preparing for a HURRICANE! Tropical storm Gonzalo was predicted to become a hurricane, and most unusually, was heading straight over Grenada.We made the best decisions we could, and had the boat taken out of the water and prepared it as much as possible. This involved taking everything down, even the boom was inside the boat! Almazul was on stands, and tied down, and we found some safe accommodation nearby to wait out the storm. As it turns out – the storm fizzled out to nothing, and what was left passed south of us, only sending some wind and a lot of rain our way. To say we were relieved is somewhat of an understatement! From speaking to local people we learned that since Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada in 2004, most people prepare EVERY time there is a tropical storm coming their way. Before this experience we were of the belief that Grenada is fairly safe from hurricanes. This is true only most of the time I guess.
  • Preparing to become a GRANDMA! My daughter Lara and her partner Kyle are joyfully expecting a baby in February. The news was delivered over the phone, accompanied by an ultrasound photo, and then a short happy video. My general state of disrepair in the sight and hearing departments; combined with a windy night AND patchy internet, meant that poor Lara had to repeatedly shout the good news, and alert me to the fact that the ultrasound picture I had assumed to be an injury of some sort, (sans glasses) was in fact my grandbaby! Finally we shared the joy, albeit a little hoarsely by then. xxx

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • An after dark swim during quarantine with BIOLUMINESCENT plankton surrounding me like a cloud of fairy dust! As I disturbed the water with my enthusiastic freestyle, the bioluminiscent plankton glowed in all its glory, illuminating my watery path and fading to a wake of magic! I felt a little bit like Peter Pan‘s Tinkerbelle in the “Little Golden Book” illustrations! (well in a wobbly middle aged woman kind of way…..!)
  • Clearing quarantine and being (relatively) free. Our freedom began with being able go on land with masks for necessary things, meet others on the beach until 5 pm, and as a real treat, eat takeway food at outside tables at restaurants until 7. Since then restrictions have eased gradually, and it feels as if island life is probably as normal as it can be for the foreseeable future. Grenada is taking a very cautious approach, and is refining the implementation of infection control protocols while the border is still closed, and the risks comparatively low I think. Carnivale usually takes place next weekend, and the government are regularly issuing stern warnings that ALL events are cancelled. I wish them luck quelling people’s enthusiasm for this annual highlight.
  • We were very warmly welcomed and assisted to moor by our dear friends from Delphinus when we moved out of the quarantine area to FREEDOM. They were a welcome site indeed!
  • Snorkeling at an Underwater sculpture park. Swimming silently around in clear water, searching for anything that looked man made among the coral was quite magical. Between the four of us, we found about 30 of the 75 sculptures. The park was developed post Hurricane Ivan to provide a new base for marine life to proliferate and also to draw people away from the few surviving fragile coral reefs nearby. It has since been listed as National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World. A big thumbs up from me!
  • Playing guitar and singing in the moonlight on deck in company. Tranquil and beautiful….
  • Visiting Sandy Island in Carriacou. Typical Caribbean at its best; colourful coral, tropical fish, white sand, turquoise water. I think our appreciation was heightened as we wandered along the sand – because we wondered if anywhere would be the same in a couple of weeks, because at that time Hurricane Gonzalo was gathering in the Atlantic.
  • Continuing to meet generous and like minded people at every turn. We were fortunate enough to acquire a replacement dinghy engine; delivered, in exchange for a case of beer and an interesting conversation over dinner. This happened after a friendly chat with a kind sailor at a boatyard. We try to form part of the cycle of giving as often as we can, to keep the wheel turning.

Sailing to safer waters

WORST:

  • Coming close to another anchored boat during a storm one night. We were awoken by our anchor alarm alerting us that we were moving – so, instantly alert (even through closed eyelids!) we sprang out of bed, put the fenders out, and spent the night in the cockpit ready to start the engine and pull up the anchor if a crash became imminent. It was a little tricky because we were not sure if our anchor chains were close to being overlapped, because our neighbors had an unusually long chain out for the conditions, still in place since the hurricane threat of the previous week. In the morning we found a better spot – one near(ish) miss was enough!

FUNNIEST:

  • En route to Grenada we appeared to stop in the water whilst under motor. Obviously we had a problem. This required an under boat investigation; clearly a first mate’s job.👍 So I clipped on and went into the water and sure enough, the propeller was completely engulfed and strangled by a huge swag of sargasso weed. I was able to pull most of it off, bit by bit, diving under and re-emerging trying not to get donked on the head by the boat in the waves. This was quite successful, and all was well until the Captain gave the throttle a burst to release the remaining weed. (I was well clear of the spinning blades by this time obviously!) The boat did not immediately surge forward (Magnus does like me a little bit!) but he possibly underestimated the velocity of the water pushed back by the propeller, almost blasting me backwards off my holding on the ladder. I held on, grimly horizontal; the remaining sargasso shot past me, and all was well with the world. I adjusted both my bathers and my composure, clambered aboard, and away we went, somewhat faster minus the weed.
  • The belly laughs came thick and fast whilst practicing the uke and harmonica with Lee on the guitar playing “Ring of Fire.”
Belly laughs ahead…


FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Looooong Italian style lunch in quarantine. We had to keep ourselves busy, so spent one day preparing and eating a four course Italian feast – improvised obviously, from the bits and pieces that we had onboard, but delish nonetheless.
  • Tasty pantry style dahl.
  • Gathering and eating perfectly ripe mangos we found along the road most days we walked on land.
  • Doubles – a Trinidian street food delight, often eaten for breakfast. They are a little like a non enclosed roti/wrap – filled with a chickpea curry. (channa) The story goes that they are called “doubles” because they are so nice that most people asked for a “double” serve….
  • Mango smoothie. Magnus loved these so much he had a tough time avoiding a state of constant “brain freeze” each time we had one.
  • Wraps at a tiny roadside cafe near the boatyard we were at. The wraps and rotis here are often shoe sized rolls of satisfying roti or naan type outer, filled with rich chicken, fish, or vegetarian curry, and cost very little. Really tasty, healthy AND cheap – a great option whilst painting the boat, instead of our own cooking seasoned with antifouling paint.
  • MORE fresh local fruits and vegetables,; kallioo,dasheen, breadfruit, sweet potato, ocra, many capsicum family members, eggplant, soursop, etc
  • Frozen sorrel juice, served in a knotted plastic bag. To drink the luscious contents, it was just a matter of biting off the corner, reminiscent of a “sunnyboy” frozen triangle. (A veritable highlight of many a childhood summer in the 70’s, across both hemispheres apparently!)
  • Brewery beer – Magnus is supporting a small local business by studiously working his way through the full repertoire of beers brewed onsite at The West Indies Beer Company. What can I say……he is a generous guy.
  • Fresh tuna. No longer novel, but always appreciated.
  • Bonnie’s recipe caramel popcorn. The BEST antidote to a sweet craving when the cupboard is (almost) bare!

BOAT WORK:

  • Changed the anchor light bulb at the top of the mast, and coaxed the contacts to remain “in touch” with each other – twice. This all happens at the top of the mast, so the more calm the day the better!
  • Re painting of the whole underside with anitifouling. We took the opportunity while the boat was out of the water for hurricane purposes…. this is our second time doing this job.
  • Through hulls replaced, another land job.
  • Toilet pump replaced.
  • Wind generator re balanced.
  • Dinghy motor repaired and gearbox exchanged.
  • Drogue purchased second hand. (Interestingly, from a boat that started right here, sailed to Brisbane, was sold, sailed back here, and now we have its very well travelled (but unused) drogue!
  • Gas ignition switch fixed.
  • Lubricated steering chain.
  • Installed small fan – wondering why we waited so long!
  • Repairs to canvas on bimini and sprayhood.
  • Replaced a jib sheet.
  • Re rigged whisker pole.

FUN FACTS:

  • Our dear friend and champion Henri from Les Saintes arrived here, and after quarantine he adopted a puppy. Gigi probably had a rough start to life, but is now happily ensconced in her wonderful and loving new home aboard a French catamaran, and is truly thriving!! As you can see from the pics, she is coming along in leaps and bounds. Magnus has developed a deep affection for her, and is known as “the blonde uncle” which sounds much better in familiar French!

Our SwedeOz adventure one year on – a fleeting backward glance.

This brief post marks the passing of a year of life on Almazul.

On the first of July 2019 we stepped onto Almazul near Barcelona, and today we find ourselves on the island of Grenada 🇬🇩 in the Caribbean. 🌴

It has been a year of physical challenge, new places, no haircuts, (for the Captain at least!), swimming, living simply, and best of all, learning more about our planet and its people.

A bare few of the many highlights on the way must include:

  • Visiting Barcelona
  • Walking the Caminito del Rey near Malaga. It is a 3km long, 1 m wide path, built on the side of a sheer rock face 100 meters up. Spectacular!
  • Sailing to the Rock of Gibraltar, and then climbing it. (On my birthday!)
  • Sailing to AFRICA, and visiting Morocco. Sailing up the river into Rabat felt like we were entering another world, and visiting the Sahara desert via the Atlas mountains unforgettable.
  • Crossing the Atlantic Ocean double handed, ie.just Magnus and I. The sailing, the sea, the weather, the night sky, swimming in 5000 m, being surrounded by orcas… the whole crossing was an incredible experience.
  • Snorkelling.
  • Life in the Caribbean -say no more.

We have been incredibly fortunate to have met many genuinely good people along the way.

A brief story in pictures:

IN THE BEGINNING….

ALONG THE WAY; MEDITERRANEAN SPAIN:

MOROCCO AND CANARY ISLANDS:

ATLANTIC CROSSING:

CARIBBEAN:

TBC….🌴❤️

Lockdown lowdown

Lockdown has lifted in the French Antilles, and we must bid farewell to dear Les Saintes as we set sail for the more southerly Grenada. However it is not without sadness that we leave our lockdown paradise and the small cruising community that became our friends. Les Saintes comprises a small group of islands just south of Guadeloupe and has been our haven in a world gone mad, and our home for the past two and a half months. As we grew close to our fellow locked down boaters through radio chats, quizzes, practical help and advice, spare part sharing, and finally meeting in person to share food and conversation; we realised that we had certainly gained much more than we lost during this unexpected pause in our journey.

We truly appreciated the camaraderie, advocacy, and practical support navigating through the complicated French and local government regulations, revised regulations, mayoral edicts etc etc ….ad infinitum, and learning the (not so) subtle French art of making regular “reclamations” and maybe, just maybe…. we are a little bit more French for the experience!!

Some new experiences included:

  • Staying in one place long enough to really feel as if we knew it like the back of our hand, and learn a little of island life; make real friends, in this case assisted by the experience of sharing the adverse conditions of confinement.
  • Feeling distinctly unwelcome, even feared, as foreigners. This was an unpleasant but useful experience, that occurred at the beginning of the lockdown imposed all over France including French territories. This experience gave us cause to reflect on many communities who feel this kind of xenophobia daily, for their entire life. The small island community saw us foreigners as potential virus carriers, and were fearful and resentful of our presence I think. We were strongly instructed to leave our mooring at the beginning of the lockdown, and return to our home port, but for us and many others this was impossible. As we frantically debated our options, some French boaters told us that they had simply refused to go, and so were accepted and supported to stay. Our first French move was also to dig our heels in, and maritime services supported our safe harbouring, and so we stayed.

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • Definitely the development of a close, responsive and supportive community during the lockdown. As is often the case, a crisis can expose the best or worst in people, and I believe we absolutely saw the best in everybody around us. A common purpose, shared experience, and genuine concern for each others’ welfare was certainly heartwarming and worthwhile, particularly in the thick climate of uncertainty.
  • When lockdown permitted, sharing adventures such as a trip to Guadeloupe, walks and fika, beach barbeques etc with a varied cohort, all of whom were interesting and fun company.
  • Whilst at Guadeloupe, visiting a small seaside town called Deshaies, which is the setting for the TV series “Death in Paradise.” (thanks for the tip Mum!)

WORST

  • Initially feeling very uncertain about the best course of action, and feeling far from home at the beginning of our confinement when tensions ran high.
  • Dreading the impending hurricane season, when it seemed impossible to leave the area.
  • Repairing our dinghy SEVERAL times, after a barracuda tooth sliced a little gash in the side, and some smaller holes in the floor, apparently as we dropped it into the the dinghy after catching it. The damage was not detected at the time, but when we arrived at our destination, our dinghy was mysteriously deflated, and only gradually did we discover the holes and determine their cause, while also recalling the strange “whooshing” sound we heard as the barracuda landed in the dinghy….. Those barracudas have blooming big teeth! Dinghy sound again BTW.

FUNNIEST

  • MANY conversations with France vs the rest of the world in a spirit of infinite goodwill and kindness, accompanied by endless obligatory cultural ribbing.
  • Some of our evening radio quizzes, in particular ones created by Niord, based on Finnish cover music! Songs covered by Finnish bands become something else entirely! Don’t knock it till you try it!
  • Another of our biggest belly laughs was also generously provided by Niord. We were privy to the lux premier screening of their onboard workout video, which included winch spinning, fender boxing, and spinnaker pole dancing, all filmed in paradise with incredible clarity, impeccable timing, moody slow mo, windswept hair – the whole shebang! Their YouTube channel “An idiot aboard” is a must see.
  • Having a socially distanced sundowner, in our dinghies tied to the back of American boat Bebe. This was fun, and hilarious as we 3 Swedish dinghies (plus me) bobbed about, jostling for position, talking to our remote hosts, trying unsuccessfully to keep hold of our wine and caps in the wind and waves!
  • Finding a squid lying laconically on our sofa one morning. Yes, I know!! How does that happen? Well the laconic pose was easy, he/she was dead by this time. We surmise that the athletic beast must have leapt through a slightly open TOP cabin hatch, which is about 2 meters above water level!! What are the chances!? We had to cook it then, as the poor thing had died at our hands, so we shared coffee and fresh pan seared squid with garlic with Amiga Mia, at morning tea time, as you do.

FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Fresh squid, as above.
  • Pizza delivered by dinghy – an after confinement treat!
  • Fresh baguettes, regularly delivered by friends directly to the boat.
  • Patisserie delicacies, hand delivered as surprise gifts!
  • A Swiss boat baked bread, similar to brioche but not sweet. Really moreish!
  • A couple of incarnations of Key Lime pie, from a recipe book loaned to us by Amiga Mia.
  • Cheese, fullstop. Brie, Camembert, Bleu d’Auvergne, Roquefort, among MANY others. One night we were treated to an impromptu radio lesson on French and Swiss cheese; a Swiss lady had heard some relatively uninformed discussion about cheese and was forced to educate us a little. Bravo!
  • Several varieties of rum punch, as recommended and often provided by others, including Ti punch, Planter’s, and home made caramel rum. Guadeloupe produces many sought after rums, and our fellow boaters were educated connoisseurs.
  • Some more tentative experimentation with previously unfamiliar vegetables. By my own trial and error, discussions with others, and patchy internet research, I think I am getting the hang of using most local veggies now. We have had navet, plantain, and christophene this week, and a fail with breadfruit last week.

BOAT WORK:

  • Replaced bow propeller switch TWICE.
  • Freed up a clunking steering drive chain.
  • Removed barnacles and surrounding gardens from the hull TWICE.
  • Washed hull sides.
  • Polished some transom fibreglass.
  • Polished some stainless steel.
  • Freed up some rusted solid side gate latches.
  • Fixed compass light.
  • Cleaned and lubricated jammers.
  • Patched dinghy.
  • Several small sprayhood repairs.

FUN FACTS:


ALERT: I feel the need for a little rambling on…. to describe the convoluted process via which we finally decided to stay here in the first place, the care we received whilst at Les Saintes., and a little about how we passed our days. Feel free to back slowly away…..

Our decision to stay was encouraged in three ways;

Firstly our own common sense took hold eventually. We were safe, within the EU, had food and water and fuel, so decided to stay put and see how things unfolded, rather than try to dash off to somewhere that may have proved worse. Secondly, we were becoming a little more French, and followed the example of our French neighbors, who just refused to leave. And thirdly, we gained confidence from another Swede; Lasse on Amiga Mia, who assured us that “they would have to bring guns” before he would move. But the very next day, we watched with dread as Amiga Mia left her mooring bouy. The guns must have arrived, we thought, and thus we would also be chased away. But later we laughed heartily with Lasse as it was revealed that he was only going to a more calm mooring bouy, not leaving town! No guns apparently!


I guess all of us around the world have slightly different experiences of a similar situation. Our two month confinement was spent almost entirely ON the boat…… still alive; tick, and still friends; BIG tick! We pottered around with small jobs, tried to do some sort of movement daily, including swimming around the boat. (which is not as fun as it sounds actually, but our swimming improved, and we learned to appreciate the movement) We also experimented with cooking, we read, laundered, I practiced Swedish, and Magnus practiced the uke. We also found small incidental distractions (I was dead set on retrieving an abandoned lobster cage I found on the sea floor nearby, and developed some rudimentary knowledge of the fish species we saw most days, while Magnus dug deeply into discovering which of the three town bakeries made the best baguettes and ciabatta, to ensure our infrequent trips to town were not wasted!) We were permitted to go ashore for an hour for necessary shopping or the doctor, or for exercise. Each trip had to be supported by an “attestation” form stating our justification for being away from our abode, and was frequently checked by the gendarmerie, at least at the beginning. Grocery shopping and the trek to the rubbish disposal area became major events! And if we had to take the boat to the jetty to fill our water tanks, that was definitely a big day out! Our days were book ended by the morning radio net, where we checked in with projects for the day, technical questions etc, and then the evening sundowner chat and quiz. And so it was that eight weeks passed pleasantly and soon enough the restrictions were eased a little, and we spent the next two weeks a little more freely, while awaiting permission to move on, in anticipation of hurricane season. We walked on the hot dry islands, met the many goats as well as our new friends, swam, snorkeled, BBQed, and went into the shops in the dinghy.

And I must also mention the care and consideration we received from the French Navy, who checked on the welfare of all boaters with weekly visits in an enormous frigate that dispatched personnel in a rib boat to us, and was capable of carrying many helicopters and delivered both these and respirators to the islands. In addition to this moral support, a local yacht services company (LSM) and in particular the gentleman whom we most often dealt with provided excellent services during the lockdown. (After the initial awkward period of attempted enforced evacuation of course!)

Navy Frigate

Of our confinement companions, special mention must go to Henri on Escales, our official French hero, for all his support, advocacy , efforts to make us feel included in the French community, and friendship; Bebe for hosting our morning and afternoon radio chats; we all appreciated Dan’s cheerful voice uniting us and inspiring us with his and Lori’s recipes and boat projects, and occasionally “treating” us to a Dad joke or two. To Amiga Mia for supportive and fun friendship, baguette delivery, advice, and tool loans; and to Niord for their company in our uncertainty, their boundless energy and enthusiasm, friendship and mirth. To our neighbor Yves for evening check ins, and local information. To Clarity, for their friendship, warmth and positivity. Clarity were the first of our fellow lockdowners we met! (Atop the highest peak on the island, as it turns out, which I guess is no surprise now we know them better!) We thank Isail 2.0 for their enduring contributions of music, and food and wine knowledge, and especially enjoyed getting to know them after lockdown. And Tibor, for pizza delivery, and their fun company, to Sherbro, for their company, and generosity of spirit with sharing their extensive experience in the Caribbean. To Piotr and Agnes for including us in the sundowner hour, and parties ashore. To Escapade, who we only just met before they left, but would like to meet again, and to Amaran, who we just met in the last couple of days, and hope to meet again soon.

This is living, Barry!

I don’t know who Barry is either, but you know what I mean. (or see *)

Since arriving in the East Caribbean, we have been puddling around the beautiful Windward Islands, which include St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and Martinique, to mention a few. And, to my greatest delight, my daughters joined us here for 9 days. ❤️

Having said all that; this period has been the most varied of our trip so far…..the come down after the Atlantic crossing; the joy at being in the Caribbean; the absolute delight at having my daughters come to stay with us; visiting some truly spectacular and wonderful places; the sadness of farewelling said daughters; the “who knew?” feeling of visiting  long yearned for places such as Martinique; and then the crushing impact of the Corona virus – for us first felt in the group of French Islands called Les Saintes, near Guadeloupe. We have been in ON BOAT lockdown now for over a month, and expect that this will be last for another month. We consider ourselves lucky to be well and in a safe place within the EU, with ample food and water, albeit under very strong restrictions regarding going on land for shopping etc. However I will come to all of that in the next blog. This present installment has been produced squinting through my glasses, typing with one finger on my phone, in irritatingly short bursts of tepid Internet connection. First World problems 🙄

Our thoughts and well wishes are with those affected by Corona, and we applaud and support strong government action to minimise harm.

Some new experiences have included:

  • Visiting many places previously only read about or seen in pictures….including Tobago Cays. It is one of the most photographed parts of the entire Caribbean –and to be there with my kids and Magnus was absolutely incredible.
  • Swimming with turtles, who were apparently unperturbed by our giddy amazement as they went about their daily business, laconically chewing sea grass and gliding regally past us. Watching my kids’ delight was a truly special treat – just like when they were small 💕
  • First Mate being “Captain for a day”, sailing from Dominica to Les Saintes. An interesting experience for both of us, and positive all round!
  • My first solo dinghy trip under motor. Another small captaincy I guess. I’ve rowed alone many times, but hadn’t yet used the motor unaccompanied. My mechanical superstitions and subsequent quirky methods worked a treat – and I got several kilometres from the boat alone AND back with no rowing required! All good – and a necessary freedom (for both of us) I think. Now I zoom about like a newly licenced teenager; with the added fun of being able to go much faster alone than when we are both aboard. ⚠️
  • First “conscious” attempt to meet with other women on boats. Wednesday Ladies Lunch is apparently common around these parts, you just need to tap into the local cruising networks. The only problem was that “boat talk” was banned, and I wondered what 12 strangers would talk about, but it didn’t take long!! The crowd was varied in age, boat type, nationality and background. One woman’s motorboat had a fullsize bath, but most of us were on sailing boats, some on their way somewhere, and some used as holiday homes in the marina. Amongst us there was an author, an actor, an ex politician, a youngish mum, a pharmacist, a teacher, a farmer… Etc. An interesting group of lunch companions!
  • A unique insight into our own psyche. When we first went ashore in Martinique, Magnus let out a sigh of deep relief, as we encountered NO ONE begging or hustling, and we could see signs that made sense and THEN we found an orderly area to sort rubbish!!! Back in Europe! Magnus’s shoulders visibly relaxed a few centimetres. There is some comfort in the familiar after all!
  • Beach BBQ with other boats including two families with small kids. Arriving to the beach in dinghys, speaking Norwegian, Swedish, English, laughing, eating simple food, watching the sun set, and then the stars. Although we STILL haven’t seen the green flash, despite having watched more than our fair share of cloudless sunsets this year.

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • My dear children came to stay on the boat. This was a short but very sweet 9 days, and we made the most of it. We sailed solidly for several days in order to get down to Bequia and the beautiful Tobago Cays to swim with turtles and snorkel the reefs with their beautiful colourful tropical fish. I had been first introduced to Bequia a few years ago on a sailing vlog, and was looking forward to visiting the white beaches, small quirky town, and houses built into cliffs, a bit like styled caves. Our short visit only confirmed that it a place worth staying at for a while. As well as being deleriously happy to have my kids with us, I also loved having their enthusiastic help around the boat, and Magnus and I both loved the lively energy and fun warm vibe they brought with them. 😊
  • Mooring under the imposing Pitons at St Lucia was spectacular. The stunning monoliths framing our view, and forming a perfect auditorium. The sight of my happy kids swimming under the Pitons at sunset is indelibly etched in my “mum moments” memory. 💜
  • We did some nice walking on Terre du Haut in the small island group of Les Saintes, just south of Guadeloupe in the East Caribbean BEFORE the lockdown. Fortunately we arrived here 4 days before the lockdown started, and so walked solidly each day for 3 days, which went a long way to solving our small problems associated with inactivity. One day we did a walking “beach crawl” visiting 6 beaches. We had 3 to go, but the next day the lockdown came into effect. Our stay in Les Saintes under lockdown will be continued in next blog.
  • Anchoring at Rodney Bay’s beautiful beaches. Postcard views in every direction.
  • Getting some really nice winds when sailing north up the islands, and incidentally meeting up with friends on the way.

WORST

  • Lara and I really seared our feet during a self inflicted slow form of torture. Maybe we could call this the “Aussie walking torture”? AKA every summer barefoot walk EVER! Anyhoo… Lara and I set off barefoot up a nice track (that BTW got rockier and rockier) on Palm island – one of the most photogenic islands in the Caribbean I think. Being us, we could not turn around; once we set off we were determined to get to the top. The result was… a beautiful view, and several layers of blistered sole from the. burning black rocks that formed the track. Fair trade? 🙄 ( I must admit several expletives escaped my lips on the way down, when we had to CONTINUE pressing our already very tender feet onto steak cooking hot rocks!)
  • My Aussie kids were both seasick AND sunburned at the same time on one of the longer sailing passages. They had to avoid the sun (meaning being down stairs) which absolutely guarantees seasickness. ✔️

  • I was quite sick with a flu like thing when corona was looming large in the region. I felt awful for a few days, and kept to myself. This is now called “self iso” I understand.
  • Being hurried along when parking (anchoring) overnight in a large ferry parking/turning area. We thought we needed to leave before 9 to be out of the ferry’s way, but at 7.25 we were galvanised into action by the roar of a ferry horn VERY close by….
  • Feeling far from home when we had some very sad family news. We held a memorial service, casting sprigs of seaweed into the turquoise sea – but not the same. Vale MES and Mr L M xxxx

FUNNIEST

  • Well this short tale could have been penned in the “worst” column, but it ended well, so is NOW funny. Just a warning, this whole story may be hard to believe, but it really is true. I will try to paint the unlikely picture. Generally speaking, Magnus is a careful kind of guy, who considers the consequences of his actions thoroughly (?sometimes ?) However, on this occasion, he shook off his natural Swedish reserve, AND his pedantic engineer tendancies, threw caution to the wind…. and went ahead and chomped right into the WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS FRUIT. As you do, in a foreign country, far from medical help. However; the small apple was quite tasty actually and Magnus was unperturbed. In fact his “joie de vivre” only began to fade a little when after about 10 minutes, he started to feel a strange peppery burning in his mouth, and his throat began to constrict a little. At this point he reconsidered his recent gustatory experience, and wondered what on earth possessed him to taste an unknown fruit, on a beach, in the middle of (beautiful, but medically underserviced) Tobago Cays….. I wondered that too. We were fairly quickly into the dinghy and back to the boat for some frantic googling. Magnus began to feel worse, probably as a result of the googling, but also because his burning throat constricted further, and mouth and lips ignited too. At this point we began to record his vital signs, and called the marine park ranger. The ranger came quickly, and admonished Magnus roundly, wondering “how could you be so stupid; to eat an unknown fruit in a foreign country!” We had all been pondering that, especially Magnus himself, and the ranger’s open derision summed the situation up really. Anyhoo, she administered a strong sugar solution, explaining that there was nothing else to be done, including getting to a doctor, who would just administer the same sugar solution. Our fears were not completely alleviated, but Magnus’s symptoms did subside in time. The manchineel apple is quite sweet, and lies temptingly all over the beaches in the Caribbean, but SHOULD NOT be eaten, because it comes from the world’s most deadly tree. The manchineel tree has many sinister faces… if you stand under it when it rains, your skin may burn and blister. If you eat the fruit, you may die. Caribes used the poison in their arrows Nowadays the trees are clearly marked with red paint on the trunks, but over time these markings fade and if you don’t know what they mean in the first place – are rendered completely ineffective at advising ill informed visitors of the peril at hand. In our (very feeble) defence, we carefully read a park information sign nearby, which did not mention the tree at all …. After all this was over, we felt the need to warn others of the dangers of this tree, but found it was pretty common knowledge amongst other cruisers. Lesson learned.✔️
  • Another funny surreal experience was (kind of) befriending a boat boy at Soufriere; and utilising his taxi service to and from town. Speeding across the water in a boat with a motor capable of significant G force inducing acceleration, driven by a VERY relaxed (read”high”) rasta local, caused us to quickly consider EXACTLY what situations our insurance would cover….
  • We watched an oblivious French boat, (who were in the middle of a long lunch) drag their anchor quite fast backwards, unintentionally rapidly leaving the bay! They were alerted by a loud whistle from the Captain, and it was quite comical to watch one head look up and then glance around quickly then the subsequent flurry of action, as the lunchers leapt into action to bring theIr wayward boat back! After a reanchoring, lunch was quickly resumed. They were French, after all!
  • Catching a fish in our dinghy – with no effort on our part. One morning in the marina in Rodney Bay we awoke to find a sizeable mullet presenting itself conveniently in our rubber dinghy! We didn’t cook it, as it was very hot, and we weren’t sure how long ago he had jumped in. 🙄

  • I almost stepped on a Tarantula (whoops!) in Wallilibou Bay – the setting of the first “Pirates of Caribbean” film. The giant furry erachnid scuttled away as Lara and I poked around the back of the film set hotel, searching for the rubbish bins. I jumped a little, understandably, but Lara was looking the other way, so missed it! She wasn’t TERRIBLY disappointed I don’t think? While in Wallilabou we met most of the film’s cast of extras. It seemed that every single “boat boy” who offered to help us tie up, or sell us something, had been in the movie! On this occasion we were not in the retail market, but gave some clothes away instead- it seemed like the right think to do. Lara and Bonnie’s presence on the boat meant we had more attention from the boat boys than usual. This was not always comfortable.
  • Keeping up our tradition of traveling by Stand Up Paddle board to dinner, this time at Cumberland Bay in the company of our friends from boat Roxanne. This mode of transport has its advantages and disadvantages, as you can imagine. Wet feet on arrival to the restaurant, but a much shorter trip home than the dinghy/walking option, and of course a bit of fun.
  • We survived a VERY wet dinghy ride in Bequia – lucky it was hot! The four of us piled into the dinghy to have a little orientation tour of the area before exploring the town, but the unfortunate combination of the wind and wave direction meant that within seconds all of us except the driver 🤔 were soaked. It was a little harder than usual to maintain our dignity on disembarkation at the town dinghy dock, (disembarking a dinghy is never dignified!) but we tried to hold our dripping heads high!
  • On one occasion, finding our dinghy being used as a big FENDER in between two enormous charter catamarans…. We THOUGHT we had parked outside the exclusion zone, but when we returned to the jetty at St Pierre in the north end of Martinique – we found no dinghy!? Then Oh! There it is! Squeezed in between two HUGE catamarans – that had not been deterred from parking in their usual spots, in fact the small inflatable dingy was quite handy for preventing them from bumping into each other! Our dinghy survived the significant compression, and we learned to try a bit harder to translate French signs!

FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Fruit tasting tour at the Pitons; we took a local cab to climb the Pitons and MOST fortuitously our driver was an enthusiastic expert on local fruit. He stopped and picked things for us to try, and we tasted cocoa raw, soursop, coffee, nutmeg etc. Wow!
  • Trying fresh coconut water at Bequia – we watched a man skillfully lop the top off with a machete, pop a straw in and.. voila! Lara and Bon and I shared it, and now we know how it’s done! We were pleased to learn this, after Lara and Bon spent several painstaking hours hacking, chopping, chiselling, drilling, using EVERYTHING they could find to try to open one! What else do you do, when newly arrived in the Caribbean and find coconuts lying on the beach you have just swum to from the boat? Of course you gather them up, swim awkwardly back with them under your arms (mostly keeping your head above water) and expend all your Jet lag depleted energy on trying to get the dammed things OPEN!! 😂😂😂
    All we needed was a machete!!(and some skill maybe?🙄)
  • Fresh crab and sea urchin Acras from a street stall at St Anne. They cost almost nothing, and were DE-LICIOUS.
  • As a treat with Lara and Bon, trying some new cocktails at Bequai. Between the four of us we tried a painkiller, rum punch, pina colada, and a mai tai. We agreed that the painkiller would be effective if required.
  • Lobster BBQ with boat friends from Delphinus at Tobago Cays. Romeo’s Lobster BBQ was highly recommended and our expectations were well met. We feasted on an abundance of lobster and delicious succulent vegetable side dishes, and enjoyed the sparkling good company of family and friends, and of course the novelty of being collected and returned by a roaringly fast water taxi!
  • Almazul caught Tuna! We BBQed it and also made sushi and shared it with Delphinus. Decadent!
  • Bringing our grocery shopping trolley directly to our dinghy in Le Marin, Martinique. This place is REALLY geared towards sailors!

BOAT WORK:

  • Hatches!! We have had 3 leaky hatches since we first bought Almazul in Spain, and I have tried unsuccessfully to seal them several times, each time gaining a little further insight into what to try next – all the while being woken at night by a gentle shower should it rain. The final straw came when we discovered that all three of our large front hatches had progressed from being “crazed” to being cracked right through, meaning we would fall through them if we stepped on them, as well as the leaking issue. We sought expert advice from a very helpful chandler in St Lucia, and were directed to another chandler in Martinique. To our surprise and delight, we were able to buy three, on the spot! We had expected to have to order these at great expense, and then wait months for delivery. As well as selling them, the chandler had an associated business that could fit them for us! Too good to be true? Actually yes. The hatch expert wrestled with our old hatch sweatily for about half an hour, before announcing to us that it was “not possible” in a strong French accent. Ookaay….. so if the expert cant do it ?… But Magnus was not deterred. We marched home, 3 very expensive hatches in hand, and Magnus set to work, making the impossible happen. Voila! – 3 new hatches installed. What a Captain! 😍
  • Spray hood lowered – this involved Magnus removing small “stands” that had been added to raise the height of the spray hood, resulting in a small gap at the bottom, which was quite breezy at times! It is a little more sheltered from wind and rain in the cockpit now.
  • Bilge cleaned. This was an important job, because we had inadvertently started and sustained a hugely successful fly breeding program during our crossing. This began as the majority of 192 cans of beer stored under the floor punctured, one by one, emitting a sweet yeasty liquid, perfect for breeding prime fly stock. It took us a while to understand the success of our accidental breeding program, and the source. The Estrella purchased on special suddenly became much more expensive as only 20% survived the journey.
  • Purchase of a washing tub. I have been alternating between hand washing and using increasingly expensive laundromats, so now I can wash everything from the sheets down the old fashioned way – with my feet! (I have a small hope that one day it will be grapes I am stomping on in this tub…)

FUN FACTS

  • *My daughter Bonnie introduced me to the phrase “This is living Barry” as she took a photo of Magnus and I reclining in the sun on the transom after having just swum in crystal clear water at Bequia – so I think I agree, this is living, for the moment anyway. Apparently it is from an old “Boating Camping Fishing” (BCF) store advert on TV.

Atlantic Adventure – Canaries to Caribbean

Destination, St Vincent

We made it! Cue the rum punch! Here we are in the Caribbean, after 6 days of pretty hairy weather from the Canary Islands down to Cape Verde, and then 18 days of near perfection across to St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. We had a dream run apparently, as far as long passages go. In fact some of the more experienced sailors got bored! We were too busy to be bored – catching fish, cooking, practicing ukulele and harmonica, baking, EATING, doing pilates, swimming, reading, preserving fish, (did I mention fishing?) gazing at the moon, watching sunrises and sunsets…. you get the picture. That being said, I understand that this idyllic experience is not shared by all who cross the Atlantic.

Some new experiences included:

  • Being surrounded by a pod of orcas. We were both beside ourselves with delight AND a little nervous and they cavorted around and under the boat, turning and apparently charging at us, ducking and diving in the nick of time to just skim under the boat. The blowing and playing continued for some time, maybe 10 minutes – until we began to wonder if they were playful, or possibly protective? It truly felt like a once in a lifetime experience; awesome does not even begin cover it. We were both quite profoundly affected by our proximity to such majestic predators. Wow!
  • Swimming in the royal blue water of the mid Atlantic, with about 5 km depth of water beneath! The azure hue appeared almost phosphorescent, and the clarity incredible. Magnus went straight in, but I was a LITTLE hesitant following the orca visit the day before, but also reluctant to pass up the experience. Glad I did it, and even more glad I was not devoured.
  • Playing harmonica. The “munspel” was a thoughtful Christmas present from Janne and Anki, and a thoroughly enjoyable pastime. The instruction book in Swedish made it an even more rich learning experience!
  • Sampling rum punch before midday! (OK this only happened once, on arrival day – the marina welcomed each crew with a rum punch in hand!)
  • Taking a Caribbean bus ride – one of those experiences that remind us that we are FAR from home! Colourful Minivans crammed with people, with reggae BLASTING through the speakers, transporting business men, schoolkids and tourists alike., at breakneck speed, and when required, off road for short periods!

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • ORCAS!
  • The vast Atlantic ocean. I spent many hours gazing at it, in all its moods and colours. Trying to describe its omnipotence and relentless restlessness seems futile. I tried “tempestuous mercurial water”, or “slithering silver foil”, and “brooding boiling blackness,” but none of these come close to describing the beauty of the open sea, either when benign or ferocious. On the passage to Cape Verde the waves were enormous and at close intervals, and therefore steep. The power of these towering walls of water that rose above our stern, appearing as if to completely swamp us was unfathomable. They did not swamp us though, instead they seemed to move under us, deftly passing us over their heads and down the other side. At other times, we were so fast down the waves that we surfed, and then the possibility of broaching and being flattened became real.
  • The night watches. Unforgettable, and because we were a crew of just two, we both saw much of the night sea and sky. Sometimes the night sky was like fine black mohair studded with pearls, and sometimes moonlit and matt above the liquid pewter of the sea. Sometimes it seemed as if we were sailing on a boulevard of moonlight; drawn along by the bright yellow orb that was the moon. Most often though, the full vista of the nightwatchman was a study in monochrome; the gunmetal grey and silver sea set against the dove grey or charcoal of the sky, and the clouds many shades of grey. The layers of the night soundtrack began with the gentle bass of the constant swish and slap of the waves, sometimes ascending to a crashing thump on the hull, which honestly felt like we had collided with a heavy solid object, and shook the boat from the outside in. The humming and whistling of the wind past the sails and rig rose and fell, and creaks and groans from all parts of the boat drowned out similar sounds from the crew on most occasions…. ! The occasional repetitive rolling or clattering of a loose jar, pen, bottle, toothbrush…… ANYTHING really, proved my theory that the more annoying the sound, the more difficult it seemed to be to locate the source! Most often though, the nights were spent listening to the calm sounds of the water, wind, and gently creaking boat. (And the occasional audio book of course!)
  • Sunsets and rises. Watching the sun set in front of the boat, and rise behind it each day bookended our days. Often the clouds were lined with gold, and the sky every shade of pink, purple, and orange. Another pleasure was the company of gulls, who frequently came along with us, swooping for flying fish, and often hovering just upwind of our sails, seemingly motionless in the deflected air.
  • Fishing! We caught 9 mahi mahi, a wahoo, a tuna, and a barracuda. And of course the HUGE one or two that got away….. Some days we had an almost solely fish diet, and we experimented with preserving fish by pickling, salting, and drying them. All methods turned out to be successful, but to be on the safe side, we only trialled the fruits of our preserving labours once safely ashore!
  • The boat. We often sat, mesmerised, as the bulk of our 47 foot hull was tossed around like a paper boat on a lively steam. But every step of the way, the boat felt strong and sturdy, as if it was “made for this.” Good choice Captain.
  • Camaraderie and support of fellow Vikings. Messages on the satellite device about weather, fishing, whereabouts etc were fun and reassuring. Even though the closest boat was usually over 100 nautical miles (185 km) away, it was nice to know we were not completely alone!

WORST

  • A couple of days and nights spent wondering whether we really should have bought a drogue, when the waves were very steep and broaching was a distinct possibility. When Magnus started to fashion one from anything he could find – it became apparent that maybe it would have been a good idea. We did deploy some warps to help to slow us down a little, but didn’t use the home made drogue. We were fine, but other boats broached, and one had significant engine damage. No knockdowns though.
  • During the same period, having our whisker pole out when it really should have been away. We had furled the sail, but it was too rough to sensibly go on deck to lift the pole away. We spent an anxious night watching it dip close to the water as we pitched and rolled in the waves, hoping it did not submerge and snap like a matchstick. All was well, and in the morning we put it safely away.
  • Tearing a cleat almost off, when tied to a very mobile jetty at Cape Verde. Thanks to quick action from the Captain, and help from other Vikings, this was fixable. The jetty was so wobbly that was quite difficult to walk along it, and I fully expected that someone would go into the water. Someone did. (Not us!)

FUNNIEST

  • Finally discovering and embracing the “lazy girls'” reading method – audio books! I have only half heartedly dabbled with these before, but I think the absence of a busy life, commuting in heavy traffic etc let me fall into the stories to the point of almost complete immersion. In fact both Magnus and I had to set alarms to ensure we actually checked the boat and horizon every 10 minutes during particularly gripping tales!
  • The very mixed feelings as we drew close to the end of our crossing. In one way we looked forward to land, but in another way we were loathe to leave the relaxed but purposeful rhythms that structured our days for the past month or so. The exultant feeling we expected at the completion of our journey was almost non existent, but we did enjoy recounting with absolute awe and wonder everything we had experienced on the way across. Being greeted warmly and loudly by friends on arrival, and in turn greeting others as they were heralded into the marina by a ship’s horn felt like true camaraderie. The goodwill between cruisers was strong, and we enjoyed celebrating the completion of the journey together. The wide mix of boat and crew age, size, and nationality helped to create a family feeling, and knowledge, tools, equipment and fun were shared freely between us.
  • The Captain and I attempting to play a wobbly duet on the ukulele and harmonica. A version of the walking blues is almost within our grasp, but we have not booked our first gig JUST yet…!
  • FLYING FISH! I had heard of these, but never seen them. They were landing all over the boat, every night, and a morning job was to walk around and put them back into the water. Some other crews cooked them, but not us chickens. Many of our friends had them land in their laps, in their faces, and one guy had a flying fish “on tour” up his shorts! Just ask Lina from sailingsvea.com or Morten from sylaens.com !

Food and bevvy highlights:

  • Fresh tuna, used for sushi, and also pan fried. Too good!
  • SOOO much mahi mahi. This delicate fish was perfect to quickly pan fry in butter, but we had so much of it we had to try all sorts of things, and everything was delicious! We had fish soup, curry, tacos, rice paper rolls, crumbed fish… the list goes on.
  • Midway boat made pizza and coke! This really felt like a party!
  • Pumpkin soup, a welcome change from fish.
  • Zucchini slice – ditto.
  • Captain’s fresh bread – a real treat, warm and buttery.
  • Captain’s “sugar cake.” Delicious.
  • Lemon and chocolate balls, occasionally made in sheer desperation by the part time sugar addict aboard.
  • Pop corn, another Captain’s special.

Boat work:

  • Daily chafe checks.
  • Winch temporary fix.
  • New solution for the bridle line to whisker pole attachment – after two shackles leapt off.
  • Cleat bolt tightening.

FUN FACTS : (actually just reflections today)

  • We were struck by the enormity of the ocean, and the natural environment we were in, and completely at the whim of. I imagined the salty sea air burrowing into my every cell, restoring vitality to my very being. My paternal grandma had a strong belief in the restorative power of the sea, and therefore made an annual pilgrimage to bathe in the sea well into her advanced old age. She breathed the sea air deeply, and submerged every inch of her papery skin in the salty water. She did this even when almost bent double with osteoporosis, making her way down the hot sand to bathe contentedly among us noisy splashing grand kids, to emerge eventually, invigorated for another year. As the days passed, I felt slowly more in tune with the natural world, as we fell into the life dictated to us by the sun, wind, and sea. Unforgettable.

Feliz Navidad… and ready, set, go west!

Goodbye Canary Islands; off we go….west!!

Today we farewell Europe and head west to the Caribbean. Woohoo!

Needless to say, there has been plenty going on here in Las Palmas!

Visiting friends, family, Viking Explorers rally revving up, Christmas, New Year, and the small matter of PREPARING TO CROSS AN OCEAN!! We will leave here TODAY, and the boat is as ready as it will be, after being upside down for the past week or so. The bilge is filled with food for an army, cabins stuffed with extras, and sails and rig sorted. We are heading first for Cape Verde, and then west. The anticipation has been building here on pontoon S at Las Palmas marina, and the buzz of final preparations is paplable! The local supermarket home delivery service has been very well utilised by boaters, and the boys in green uniforms trundling trolleys up and down the jetty have been running hot as they help 20 boats fill up with food for several months.

Current predictions forecast reasonably strong north easterly winds to help us move towards the equator.

Some new experiences have included:

  • Seeing Santas arrive en masse via paddle board… only in Spain, surely? (And BTW a VERY familiar looking Santa/Tomten with a gruff voice visited our neighbors boat at about 5pm Christmas Eve, just at the time Magnus popped out for the newspaper, or so the story goes…)
  • First Christmas on Almazul. Of course, it was a multifaceted celebration. We had Swedish Christmas on 24th December, Aussie/English Christmas AND the Captain’s birthday, AND the arrival of Magnus’s son Johan and partner Amelie on 25th, shared with new friends.
  • Formally meeting the Viking Explorers 2020 participants. The “Vikings” as we have labelled ourselves, are a group of 20 boats crossing the Atlantic together leaving 5th January. Together might be a strong word, because we are unlikely to see, or be in radio contact with each other after about day 1. However, we are coordinated by an experienced management team, who will alert us to inclement weather, and track our progress, and greet us in the Caribbean with rum punch in hand!
  • Presenting “Almazul” (including Captain and first mate) in public. As our boat name starts with A, we were the first cab off the rank… As well as having to talk about ourselves, we were privy to several informative sessions covering boat first aid, provisioning, communication/navigation, and safety. All sessions were well prepared and interesting, but for me actually practicing sutures on a pig trotter was the most memorable! After attempting to suture both the pig and a banana, the Captain and I agreed to buy a few more steri strips, and try to avoid any suturing en route altogether!

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • Visitors! One of Magnus’s oldest friends and partner stayed with us for a week, filling the boat with laughter, and, I hate to say… Dalsland accents….! We loved the easy and fun company Anders and Therese provided, (accents excluded, obviously!) and hanging out with them off the boat for a change. And Johan and Amelie joined us for Christmas and New Year, also bringing us much joy. They enthusiastically joined in all the goings on on the jetty and beyond. A highlight was Johan dressed as a “man overboard”, and Amelie dressed as Tingeling (Tinkerbelle) for NYE, and their daily trek for fresh bread for breakfast was a very kindly bestowed luxury for us!!
  • Pre Christmas gathering on the jetty with the Viking contingent, Spanish Christmas with new English friends, and a NYE jetty party. I am LOVING the Swedish penchant for games at adult parties, and some clever augmentation from an English crew added to the fun!

WORST

  • Our bikes being stolen. We had heard that care was required, but the locks proved not enough. Since our loss, we noticed several other severed locks lying near the bike racks at the end of the pontoons…. it is annoyng in general, but also impractical. The laundry, grocery shopping, general running around all take much longer, and are more arduous. Carrying the VERY HEAVY laundry 2 kms each way is much less fun on foot, let me tell you. I have done this four times now, and will not miss this chore!
  • Wasting over an hour of my life on the WRONG BUS, at a time when that hour was already carefully accounted for, and no buses were included in the original plan… It was a stupid case of not sticking with my gut… instead taking the advice of a bus driver. (Although you ‘d think he’d know, right!?)

FUNNIEST

  • The familiar looking bearded Swedish Tomten was pretty funny….. especially when he gave some poor Norwegian kids a real grilling about whether they had been good to their parents, to each other, had eaten their porridge…. yada yada yada… just get on with the presents already!! The incessant questions were delivered in a VERY gruff voice… I was surprised the kids didn’t jump off their boat and run away, crying! But these kids were tough – at 4 and 6 yo they showed NO fear, and grumpy Tomten did get to the presents EVENTUALLY!!
  • NYE party fancy dress and games. The fancy dress theme was “Something you find in the sea” – Magnus was a fender, I was a manta ray, and Johan and Amelie stole the show as a man overboard and Tingeling. The best game of the night award must go a “forbidden word” game we played throughout the evening. We all started with a necklace each ,and if you could trick your conversation partner into saying the forbidden word, you proceeded to “de necklace” him or her. Just to keep us on our toes, the word changed several times throughout the night. The aim of the game was to collect as many necklaces as possible, and Magnus led until late in the evening, when he was blindsided by an innocent looking Swedish neighbor. (Because it appeared that Magnus had an unbeatable lead, the forbidden word was changed to my name to really try to trip him up. Mission accomplished, well done Camilla!)
Marking NYE with a Phillips Shiraz, imported from the Mornington Peninsula, thanks Dave!

Food and bevvy highlights:

  • Best prawns ever – in Spain, cooked by English people!! Thanks Lee and Kirsty!
  • Flamin’ Christmas pudding – a new one on me! Lee and Kirsty managed to heat up Christmas pud for 28 people … not a bad effort from a boat galley!
  • Swedish Christmas food – Magnus has quite a flair for preparing different sorts of sill, and the Janssen’s Fresetelsa….etc etc
  • Beer and wine blind testing… if we are taking wine and beer in the bilge, we need to be sure to take the very best cheap stock available!! Luckily the beer on special at 19c came up trumps… and the tetra white wine was quite good too!
Blind testing
Flaming Pud!
Christmas lunch aboard Delphinus

Boat work:

  • Whisker pole fitted
  • protective floor and table coverings installed
  • engine service
  • jerry cans aboard
  • boat stocked with food

Fun facts:

  • It is 860 nautical miles to Cape Verde, and then 2200 to the Caribbean.
  • As I packed our guest sheets and towels away, I was warmed by the thought that the next people to use them would be my daughters, express from Melbourne. xox

2/3 of the Viking Explorers 2020 management team; Oliver and Carlota.
Missing is Micke.

Crossing Countdown!

Jultomten (AKA Santa Claus) incognito?

We are still in The Canary Islands but picking up the pace now with TransAtlantic preparations. We sailed without incident from Lanzarote to Tenerife, and now Gran Canaria. We have generally found the Canary Island marinas to boast resort like facilities, with caravan park prices! Win win!

Currently Almazul is on land for some rudder work and general TLC prior to our long sail to The CARIBBEAN in January. (I am still quite chuffed every time I think about this!) Magnus has his mind filled with sail set up, navigation, and communication devices, and mine is filled with provisioning. (For an army it seems!) For some reason I am assuming that we will eat AT LEAST five times as much as we normally do, OR that we will be marooned on a desert island for months… While neither is likely; the grocery shopping nevertheless continues unabated….

Some new experiences included:

  • Salsa dance class – strictly Spanish speaking – but we did our best! The class was great fun, and hilarious most of the time but we really had to “get over ourselves” and just go with it as best we could. At one stage a VERY tall young man seemed to be attempting to break my arm, gently but determinedly. It seemed churlish to ask him to desist, despite the pain and awkwardness… After a slightly uncomfortable period of struggle, I realised he was attempting a yet unknown dance move in which he had to get his (very high up) head through a small (and comparatively low) gap between my shoulder and elbow, while having a firm grip on my twisted up hand. Success was not complete; obviously, but at least the struggle ended peacefully…
  • VERY INTENSE Spanish Cross Training classes…. again, no English to concern myself with. (If you have ever done cross fit you will understand that I have been unable to brush my hair, stand up or sit down, and or pick anything up from below knee height for some days now…. 15 euros for a month sounded like a good idea at the time….) But on the upside, I am getting stronger, and other people in the class have helped me figure things out, and my coach is very professional and welcoming and an inspiringly strong woman. As an added bonus, I am loving the immersion in normal Spanish life, and as a result my Spanish vocabulary in increasing in fits and spurts, as required.
  • Scaling Spain’s highest peak. Mt Teide soars almost 4000 meters above sea level, and the “thin air” was perceptible. I thought I was looking at some interesting face paint on a woman I passed on the walking track, but when the next woman appeared to be wearing the same very unusual green spotty face paint, I realised that maybe it was me….? Magnus did not see spots, but did puff like a train sometimes. Other than that we felt fine. The views from near the top were quite sublime. …..cloud high vistas of ancient lava tongues flung against aqua blue sky and cotton wool clouds…. we were completely spell bound. Part of our view was the “Sea of clouds” near the island of La Gomera to the south, which appeared as a thick fluffy doona pulled cosily up around the island’s shoulders. Apparently the hot dry air from the south acts as a sort of lid compressing the cool humid trade winds from the north into the luxurious sea of clouds that we gazed upon. Whatever the meaty meteorological explanation, it was a spectacular view.

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • New cooking stuff – we conceded that to save gas, we should increase our cooking equipment to include an electric kettle (Hallelujah!!) and a benchtop grill thing. The novelty of different cooking options, as well as the practicality of these small comforts has given us a surprising amount of pleasure!!
  • Wearing gaudy Christmas earrings! I was a very late bloomer in the Christmas jewellery area – but once I started, I jumped right on board with all things gaudy and glittery! In fact I am a little disappointed that I forgot to pack my flashing Christmas tree earrings, but have been saved by a perfect gift from Anki and Janne – a pair of fluffy green bauble earrings to wear instead. Now the Christmas accessorising is sorted, its onto Magnus’s Christmas outfit….
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s Palmetum – a botanic garden purely of palm trees, built on top of what was a pile of the city’s waste. A beautiful place to visit, and an effective transformation of the unsightly rubbish pile right in town. And as an interesting aside, we have a Canary Island Palm in our garden outside Melbourne! Apparently they are the most widely planted/exported palm in the world, because they are quite adaptable to cooler climes.
  • Santa Ana Cathedral in the old part of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
  • Gathering together with an increasing number of our new tribe: the Viking Explorers; with whom we will prepare and cross the Atlantic alongside. The momentum is gathering as the twenty boats gradually arrive at Las Palmas for the big adventure. We have met most of the friendly, warm, and efficient organising team, and are looking forward to the first formal event this weekend.

WORST

  • Well you know things are not too bad when the worst thing that happened was a minor bicycle crash…. a grazed toe and bruised elbow are really the only evidence I have of this non event. Even Magnus didn’t see it from his position far ahead in the distance….so apart from the telltale small abrasions, it is almost a figment of my imagination.
  • AND another funeral here – my 29 year old gym gloves were fatally injured during a particularly strenuous gym session. (I dug them out because the day before my hands were almost fatally injured by several pea sized blisters incurred by (attempting) what seemed like dozens of chin ups – chin did not get very close to the bar BTW… but STILL got blisters!) And …it must be said that my gloves have not exactly worked hard for the past 29 years.

FUNNIEST

  • Magnus and I having our pride dinted a little by realising that his Aussie accent, and my Yorkshire accent are not as good as we had led ourselves to believe. The only word to describe our pitiful attempts is “ATROCIOUS.” (Foolishly we brandished our terrible accents when having dinner with an English crew…) Enough said.

Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • As an initiation to life in the Caribbean; the veteran Caribbean cruisers aboard Dephinus served us our first taste of Rum Punch – a Caribbean staple apparently. Delicious, refreshing and fruity, I have a feeling we may have another one of those one day! The captain even shared his secret recipe. Thanks Lee!
  • Sushi. This was a real treat, because our boat budget has not allowed the exorbitant treat of sushi either in Spain or Morocco. So of course we swooped upon a cheap selection we found here, just near the marina. Woop woop!
  • Churros – freshly made, warm fatty and sugary in La Laguna.
  • Having as many cups of tea and coffee as we like! New kettle uses free elctricity!
  • An unexpected Swedish buffet at a Scandinavian klubben right here in Las Palmas! Many Swedes retire here apparently, and there is an active expat community.

Boat work:

  • We have fitted a generously donated BBQ to our transom, and look forward to cooking our next fish outdoors! Thanks Björn and Alice!
  • Changed sails
  • Boat survey
  • Rudder bearing re seated

FUN FACTS:

Every second person that we have met here is a Swede!! Either they have retired here, or have a boat or holiday apartment here, or are on a boat on their way to or from home. A good incentive to tränar more Svenska!

Also, I made a most useful discovery! The Captain happens to possess a working photographic memory of where every item available in any IKEA around the world is located instore. This talent has saved us many hours, as most Australians without a sever IKEA addiction will understand. (Lara who knew??)

Almost a recreation of a pic taken in Frankston, Melbourne, but 4000 m up, and about 18,000 kms NW!