Silver Linings

20th June 2017
In Antigua we had the usual mix of boat chores and socialising. By coincidence we were there at the same time as Classics Week, races where beautiful traditional boats compete. We would move our boat, with friends aboard, from its anchorage in Falmouth Harbour to a better vantage point behind Bishop Reef, drop the hook and watch these fabulous boats race past the entrance to Falmouth. Wandering through to Nelson’s Dockyard (yes, he took his boats there for repairs) you could look at these classics close up as they are all moored to the wall. We also caught up with old friends Sheena and Lyster. Lyster was earning his keep on Mariette in charge of one of the many sails, don’t ask me which one there are so many, all with traditional names, that I quite lost count of.

By mid-May we were ready to go, as planned. However, the weather had other ideas and we weren’t going anywhere fast. But the advantage of being here at the end of the season is that the migratory boats of passage had gone, many of the yachts and superyachts had headed to Bermuda for the America’s Cup or been laid up in hurricane proof cradles and the whole place had the feeling of a sleepy seaside town. We made the most of it and rather enjoyed it. We had anchorages that would normally be heaving with boats all to ourselves and wandering through Nelson’s Dockyard first thing in the morning or in the evening with no one around was rather lovely as was catching up with old friends and exploring the cricket mad island.

Eventually the weather came good and we cleared out. We had decided we wouldn’t go to Bermuda – too expensive even when the America’s Cup wasn’t being hosted and this year prices had reportedly doubled. Our destination was Vigo in Spain where we will pay the VAT on Sea Rover prior to putting her on the market back in the UK. We had a nice gentle start, pleasant winds and a calm sea. As the evening drew in the clouds blackened and we were in for a night of tropical storms – thunder that sounded like it was overhead, lightening all around and short sharp blasts of torrential rain, which really gave the decks a good clean. The discombobulating thing about sailing through lightening is that wonderful as it maybe to watch,lighting up the night sky, you never can shake the realisation that you are in a vast flat sea level area with a socking great metal mast sticking 20 m into the air. All we lacked was a flashing neon light on the top saying ‘Strike Here’.

So as a precaution and, using some of that basic physics from years ago, we put telephone, iPad, VHF and other key electronics in a tin box into the oven – voila one Faraday cage. Of course, my next paranoia was that I’d forget it was all in there and put the cooker or, even worse, the oven on. Roasted iPad for dinner – yum!
By now you will be used to the fact that our passages don’t always go to plan. This time we developed a problem, the main breaker (fuse) on the boat started playing up tripping out intermittently and, even more worryingly on one occasion (only), Mike thought he smelt a burning like smell. Opening the panel revealed discolouration on the back of this socking great fuse and one of the wires looked damaged. Now fire at sea is one of those ‘Do not pass go’ events. You literally have 3 minutes to get it under control or you have to abandon ship. Obvious really - several hundred litres of diesel and a raging fire in a confined space makes for a pretty flammable combination. Bobbing in mid Atlantic in a life raft didn’t appeal to us for some reason.
So, whilst a fire wasn’t inevitable we decided it wasn’t worth the risk and six days out we diverted to Bermuda to effect repairs. One email later and, by the end of the day Oyster Aftersales had a replacement breaker being air freighted out. It got to Bermuda within three days, sadly DHL then took a further three days to get it from the airport to us.
An unscheduled stop in Bermuda in the middle of the America’s Cup, no berth booked and no idea if we could get one and no idea of where to find a marine electrician. Things are never as bad as they seem. We are members of a great sailing club, the Royal Cruising Club, and they have an Honorary Local Representative whom we emailed. Almost by return Grahame had found us a berth and emailed an electrician who he was sure would be able to help after the Tall Ships left (didn’t even know they were in town). Hard to explain how you feel when you get such wonderful help and support from someone you’ve never met. Thank you, Grahame.

Much to our relief Frank, the electrician confirmed the problem was simply the breaker. As he put it, after nine years bouncing around the seas a wire had simply worked itself a little loose. So no worries about wider problems – phew. Did we have confidence in his opinion? Well given he looks after NASA’s equipment here, guess he probably knows what he’s talking about.
Despite all the years of sailing we hadn’t ever really been into the America’s Cup. Yes, we had loved watching the Team NZ boat being craned in and out of the water when we were in the Viaduct; but hadn’t followed it that closely. Well now we did. As Mike said ‘When are we ever going to be at an America’s Cup again?’ So, we held our noses at the prices and bought tickets. It was thrilling, we both really got into it.

We couldn’t believe the speeds they got up to and of course the spills. We were there when Team NZ pitch poled – boat equivalent of a hand stand. Some of the tacks and gybes had us gasping – just how had they managed not to crash into each other? Mind you not all of them did miss - we had arrived too late to see the Team GBR /Softbank close encounter.
We managed to be here for the first weekend of the final and watched as Emirates Team NZ, flying on their foils, romped into a comfortable lead against Oracle Team USA.

Yet again our Kiwi shirts came to fore, after all we must surely count as honorary Kiwis. We only wish we hadn’t given our Silver Fern Flag away after the Rugby World Cup. We did contemplate writing to Oyster asking why they had forgotten to fit foils to Sea Rover and asking if we could convert our lazarette to take a Cyclor linked to our prop.
In the small world that it is we met up with old friends and made new friends. We both know this is one of the many things we will miss when we are home – the easy way in which life somehow seems to come to us the boat. We have met so many lovely people over the years, some of whom have become good friends whom we will keep in touch with long after we get home. I’m sure we will find a way of replicating this at home, just that it will be harder. We do try to keep across the main news and it does feel like we will be coming home to a UK far more obviously fractured than when we left. Some of the acts of unity have been encouraging but the issues surfacing are so visceral, seemingly beyond our here today, gone tomorrow political leaders.
We had secretly hoped the weather would mean we would just have to stay for the last weekend. But you never can rely on it and we had a good forecast to leave the Wednesday before the weekend where, hopefully NZ will lift the America’s Cup and the Lions play their first test against the All Blacks (here we revert to being ardent Lions fans). I mean what sort of timing is that? Answer: when you’re dependent on the weather it’s the sort of ‘timing’ we have got all too used to after nine years. So farewell Bermuda and hola Espagna.


Photo comment By Doug & Sandra: Thanks for the update , good call to divert to Bermuda on all fronts , We are Melbourne , Grandchild No.3 has just arrived a little girl Mako Kai Williams is 3 weeks old, F2 is at VudaPoint and we are back there July 12th , probably heading to Sydney at the end of the end of the season. Love Doug& Sandra
Photo comment By Al: Can't believe the journey seems to be coming to an end! What's next?! Lots of love, Al xxx
Photo comment By Grahame Rendell: Wonderful post as usual and glad you had a super time here in Bermuda.
Photo comment By Christina Rees: Love your log. Safe sailing to Spain. Lots of love from C & C
Photo comment By Kevin and Brigitte: Safe sailing Searover and crew! GO!Team NZ Hail the Mighty All Blacks! Love to you both -K&B
Photo comment By Cheryl Taylor: Really great to catch up on your exciting news
Photo comment By Jan Adam: Hello Sailors, Are you back....?? Would be fun to come and see you sail into London. Let us know e.t.a. Love from both

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