La Graciosa by Lochlann

La Graciosa, Canary Isles, December 2014

It took two days to sail from Madeira to La Graciosa, the smallest inhabited island in the Canary Isles. It was very enjoyable to suddenly see the islands loom up in front of us. As the sun set, we rounded the southern point of Graciosa and admired the volcano that was embedded there. After navigating our way in the dark past boats that didn’t have lights on we dropped our anchor and had a brilliant supper.
Boat kids.

Passage to the Canaries by JoJo

Passage from Madeira to the Canaries December 2014

We finally left the beautiful island of Madeira, heading south to the Canaries. I say ‘finally’ because we had not meant to stay so long. First the gearbox spline broke unexpectedly and expensively, then we had to wait out a gale. Then the leisure battery decided to die, at the weekend, just as we were about to leave! But if none of this had happed we would not have explored Madeira so extensively.  We found the Madeiran people very friendly and helpful, going out of their way to help us.

Land Ho!

Madeira by Lochlann

Short Passage from Porto Santo to Madeira November 2014

After leaving Porto Santo we crossed a small but lumpy sea to get to Machico on the south coast of Madeira Island. I was the most seasick I have been for a very long time as I was drawing down below for the first hour and the swell was very big.
We anchored off Machico, out of the swell, and went ashore after getting the dinghy off the foredeck with some difficulty. With much lifting and groaning we lifted it into the air on a pulley and then it squished me against the mast!
We found a Minimarket and bought some delicious bread called Bolo de Caco, which is made with sweet potato and cooked on a griddle.
Madeira is an amazing island. Like Porto Santo it is volcanic and the mountains are breathtaking. We found Machico’s small fort and had lunch on top of it. Fin then proceeded to steel himself to jump off the walls and over a pond at the base of the fort. He eventually did so and hurt his wrist and back in the process.
Amazing rock formations!

Porto Santo by Lochlann

Passage Rio Guadiana, Portugal to Porto Santo, Madeira November 014

After leaving the Rio Guadiana we sailed straight out to sea. We were going through the shipping lanes so we saw lots of tankers and large ships. I had the 7pm till 9pm watch so I ate supper as I looked out for ships.  There is nothing really to say about that crossing except that it took six days out of sight of land.

Our faithful self steering gear

Navigation - Lat and Long by Finbar

Since the beginning of our voyage, we have been using GPS (Global Positioning System) to determine our position. This has allowed us all to concentrate more on learning to sail. Now that we are all more confident we have been relying on it less and less.
Navigation is the process of finding your position relative to your destination and then, after plotting the shortest, easiest and safest route to that destination, calculating the information needed to follow that route.

Passage to Madeira by JoJo

Passage from Portugal to Porto Santo, Madeira November 2014

When we left England at the beginning of September the plan was to cross the Bay of Biscay, sail down to the south coast of Portugal and then decided where to go next.  The boys have always been sure that they wanted to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean.  I was more cautious and knew that plans change, things happen and anyway everyone might hate sailing! But we had bought the charts and fitted out Island Swift for ocean voyaging.
First sight of Porto Santon

The Guadiana River - by Lochlann

Rio Guadiana, Portugal/Spain October 2014

The Rio Guardiana is a long, deep tidal river that flows into the Atlantic forming the border between Spain and Portugal. Pomerao, a town some 25 miles upriver, used to be a base for Sulphur and Copper mining. It was mined further upstream then slowly made its way down river going through the crushing and separation process at stages along the way. Large ships travelled upriver to collect it and then take it to other destinations.
Sailing up the Guadiana with scandalised main to slow us down.

Passage to Algarve and Culatra Island by Lochlann

Passage Sines, Portugal to Culatra Island November 2014

On the 29th of September we sailed serenely out of Sines with our friend Nick Skeates in front of us on Wylo II. Down below I was doing my piano :) and maths:(. We were surrounded by huge tankers as we passed the outer breakwater and because they were not moving we could sail very close to them. Up close these behemoths look absolutely mountainous.
Simon happy sailing.

Lizards by Finbar

Porto Santo, Madeira, November 2014

In Porto Santo, an island off Madeira, we went for a walk up one of the mountains, Pico de Castelo, an extinct volcano. When we got to the top of the track we went on up a stony path with steps in it. The steps were placed at precisely the wrong distance apart, so that after stepping up one you had to take another step with the other foot to bring yourself up to the next one. This meant that if you walked with a normal stride size you were forced to always step up on the same foot, while the other simply took you up to the next step – these steps appeared to have been made by giants (though we didn’t see any).
Anyway, as the steps ended we came up to the top of the hill, which had been turned into some sort of cactus garden, though it didn’t seem to be growing much. In the middle was a house of strange design. It was rectangular and its roof was a continual arch from one short side to the other. It was by far the highest point and we climbed on the roof.
We sat at the edge of the garden to have lunch. We were sitting at a low wall. On the other side it dropped a good 3 or 4 meters. As we sat we saw a lizard poke his head over the edge of the wall. He vanished again almost immediately as we moved. When we looked over the edge we saw that there were loads of lizards climbing all over the wall, which was made of stone and supplied them with excellent homes. The lizards became bolder and one of them came on top of the wall and grabbed a bit of apple peel in his mouth and carried it away. Soon three or four of them were feeding on the rest of the peel, which was too big for them to carry away.
            Then I noticed a lizard’s head poking up over the wall just by my left hand. I stayed very still. Suddenly it moved up over the edge and then stopped, again a few inches from my hand. Then it actually climbed up onto my hand and started eating the peanut butter in my sandwich. It was amazing. Somebody moved, and he ran back down the wall. We waited patiently and soon more were coming over the wall to get the food, and they were fighting over it too. I had three on my hand at once at one point, climbing up my fingers. Some were climbing on my bare forearm when suddenly I felt a slight tickle at the back of my neck. There couldn’t be one at the back of my neck could there? I would have noticed it climbing up! Again something tickled the back of my neck. Slowly, so as not to frighten the lizards on my hand, I reached back and felt the back of my neck. There was a lizard there! It almost fell down the back of my t-shirt. I tried to get it out, then it was gone and so were all the lizards on the wall because of my rapid movements. They were soon back again, though. One bit Lochy, my brother, who was also feeding them. They didn’t have very big teeth but a powerful jaw comparative to their size. Big enough to give a hard nip apparently, judging by Lochy’s reaction. When we went we left them the last bit of our sandwiches.

This was a very memorable day. I forgot to even mention the wonderful views of Porto Santo from the top of the volcano.
Written by Finbar

Passage round Cabo Sao Vincente by JoJo

Passage from Sines Portugal round Cabo Sao Vincente to Sagres, October 2014

After spending a glorious four days in Sines, the north wind was back and ready to blow us round Cabo Sao Vincente.  This would take us onto the Algarve and would mark the first stage of our voyage, and our first decision point. Do we want to continue further south and then on to the Caribbean?
Lochlann up the mast looking towards Cabo Sao Vincente.

Snorkelling by Finbar

One day, a very long time ago now, about last Friday…
Stop! Stop! Stop! Sorry, that’s from Winnie the Pooh
About a couple of years ago, Mum, Lochlann, and I went down to Battery Rocks in Penzance with Dylan, a friend of ours, and his mum. The tide happened to be a spring low[1] and you could see all the boulders that were usually covered by the sea.

Mounts Bay, Cornwall

Sines Portugal by Lochlann

Sines, Portugal October 2014

After leaving Baiona we sailed south over the sea border into Portuguese waters. To celebrate the fact we had cake and orange juice and pringles as we raised our Portuguese courtesy flag. Soon after we were visited by a school of dolphins, the most acrobatic ones I have ever seen in real life.

Our Second Passage - Bayona to Sines by JoJo

Passage Bayona Spain to Sines Portugal, October 2014

We woke up on Sunday morning to hear the sound of the yacht Dvina motoring out, bound for Porto.  We had been stuck in Bayona for 11 days (the last four with heavy rain and southerly winds!)  We did manage to fill our tanks with rainwater from the water collection system on the boat, but we were fed up with the rain and wanted to get south.  The weather was on the turn but the winds looked light, so we decided to fill up with diesel and go ashore for a forecast. We decided to leave.
Sunsets at sea are wonderful and different every time.

Bayona NW Spain by Lochlann

Bayona Spain September 2014

Our first port of call after crossing the Bay of Biscay was a small Spanish town called Baiona (Bayona). The first thing we saw after we came out of a thick fog was the lighthouse near El Lobo de Silleiro shining like a beacon through the rapidly dwindling mist. We sailed through the large channel made by the mainland on one side and a group of islands on the other. We saw the lights of Baiona from where we were but went to the other side of the bay to Panjon.

We Cross the Dreaded Bay of Biscay by Jojo

Passage Falmouth to Bayona, Spain, September 2014

Our big family adventure started three years ago when the call back to the sea became too strong to deny. My young boys then 12 years and 10 years old, with the help of some old friends taking us sailing, persuaded my husband Simon that we should go on a sailing adventure.  Up until that time, Simon’s only sailing experience had been dinghy sailing in the Thames Estuary at the age of 13.
The plan was to sail down to the south of Spain then across to the Caribbean.  It took us three years to find a suitable boat and prepare her for blue water sailing. I am the skipper, mum and cook, which at times is an interesting mixture. Simon and the boys, Finbar and Lochlann, are new to the sailing life and part of my mission has been to do everything I can to ensure that they enjoy the experience.
I was brought up sailing the oceans with my parents on the standing gaff cutter Mjojo the boat they built in Lamu, Kenya in the 1960s. I am an old fashioned girl when it comes to boats, so I wanted to find a gaff cutter that was suitable and safe for my family. With help from friends we decided on the strong and seaworthy Wylo II (a 35 ft steel gaff cutter designed by Nick Skeates) and found Island Swift on the Isle of Wight and bought her in 2013.  She is a pretty boat that sails beautifully, is very seaworthy and is the perfect size for my family.

Our Big Adventure Begins by Lochlann

Passage Falmouth to Bayona, Spain September 2014

When we finally sailed out of Falmouth with intentions of crossing the Bay of Biscay I was as excited as excitement can be. We sailed past Lizard Point with compass course of 200 degrees. We put our Walkers Log out for the first time to measure how far we had gone and how fast we were going. For the first time Fin and I took some seasickness tablets and they worked! Big surprise, but I still felt queasy. At 8 o’clock I came on watch and for 2 hours sat and made sure the self steering was working and watched for ships on the horizon. I went down below at 10 and had some food before bed at 11.
Lochlann 'on watch'

Crossing Biscay by Finbar

Passage Falmouth to Bayona, Spain September 2014

The dinghy had been winched aboard, the mainsail, both headsails, the topsail with its javelin of a spar, and the jib topsail had all been hoisted up and sheeted in. We were off to Spain, off eventually to the Caribbean, and this was the last sight we would have of England for a year or more. We were about to cross the Bay of Biscay. It would take a week or more and we might see dolphins and maybe even a whale.

Finbar soaking up the sun

My Memories of the Gaff Cutter Mjojo by JoJo

The first years of my life were spent sailing and living on the sailing boat Mjojo, which my parents built in Africa.
It was my home, my life, all I knew.

My Mum has written about our adventures and has just self published the book through Amazon.
Mjojo Durban 1968

Swiftlet Takes Flight by Lochlann

March 2014

When we bought Island Swift she came with a small 8ft fibreglass tender. 
The dinghy