the autumn of 2006 Steve Landles with his daughter Kirsty
and their friend Andy set off on a once in a lifetime voyage
around the world on their yacht "Lamachan". Before
setting off on this adventure Steve had hidden his inner
buccaneer behind the mask of an IT project manager.
December 2006 - Caribbean Sailing
update concluded on the optimistic note that if things
continued to go well, we would arrive in the Caribbean
well ahead of schedule. And the trade winds continued to
blow like they are supposed to, getting us to St Lucia
by 10 December. A total time of less than 19 days
compared with my conservative planning assumption of 28
same time as we sailed from the Canaries to the
Caribbean a major yachting event, the Atlantic rally for
Cruisers (ARC) was underway. Probably the biggest ocean
yachting event with 250 yachts, so we set out 5 days
before they started to make sure we got into St Lucia
before every berth was taken. As we arrived, the early
race boats were coming in and it was interesting to
compare notes. The winds were not the worst we've seen -
35 knots was the highest we recorded and generally not
above 25. But the damage sustained by the race boats was
painful. One crewed by some folk I knew wrecked a couple
of sails and lots of bits of rope and rigging. Around £15k
total, and insurers impose a high excess on race boats.
But 2 others arrived with masts snapped off in the
middle and one we heard was abandoned mid Atlantic. I
was initially distressed with our damage; 4 broken sail
battens, but the problems of others put it in
12 months since we launched, but we've covered a lot of
miles so I decided it was time for its annual service.
This involves getting the boat lifted out of the water,
cleaning up the hull, refreshing the anti-foul,
servicing the engine and generally getting it ready for
the next ocean. So we were in the boatyard at Rodney
Bay, St Lucia. Delightful place; being anchored in the
bay would be nicer than in a rather dusty boatyard, but
at least we were able to stay aboard for the week. And,
Rodney Bay is a delightful place. Golden Sandy beaches,
atmospheric restaurants, cheap rum punches. We could
watch the romantics get married at Sandals Beach resort
or the cruise ship passengers disembark. But why would
you want to go sailing in something so big?
relaunched on Thursday 21st and headed down the St Lucia
coast to Marigot Bay - famous since the British fleet
hid in here from the French. The Brits covered their
rigging in palm fronds and the French sailed on past.
Restaurants fringe the bay; the one we chose had a band
of old codgers playing in a style I believe is Calypso.
cleared into St Vincent and the Grenadines, the first
port being Wallilabou. You drop your anchor into the bay
and run a stern line to a palm tree. The place is famous
for being the set of 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. The
film crew left a rickety jetty and building, which was
where we ate; the place isn't busy, we were the only
dinners' that night. . We've now moved on to Bequia -
different island, a beautiful bay, and very popular.
update would break the established pattern if they were
not some drama to recount. Well the drama this time
concerns the spinnaker, a large parachute like sail to
help speed us on days when the airs are light. Since
leaving London, we hadn't seen the right conditions, but
on one of the lighter days mid Atlantic it seemed ideal
to give it a try. So we got bit out and launched this
enormous sail. And it worked, looked good and pulled us
along a bit faster. We left it up for a couple of hours
before putting it away for the night. So next day when
we got it out we were pretty confident. We decided to
check how close to dead behind the wind we could get;
and had our question convincingly answered.
it looked great, streaming out in front of the boat. But
a slight bounce in the waves and it swung towards the
forestay, wrapping itself once around the forestay.
Maybe we should have done something quicker - but what?
As we considered our options, it gracefully put in a
second wrap, then a third and so on. So, how do you
unwrap a spinnaker from the jib? We spent the next 6
hours trying every option, ranging from trying to
manhandle it round the bottom to the lateral thinking
sailing the boat in circles in the opposite direction.
Nothing worked. Running out of options, and light, it
was obvious one of us would have top climb to the top of
on our boat is 22 meters above the waterline. Can't say
I was keen to go up, but I thought of that gutsy Ellen
MacArthur. She does it with no one below, a smile on her
face and talks to the TV camera. So up I went.
we have for getting up the mast is called a self
climber. You sit in one part, put your feet in another
and alternately lift each part up a rope. It's slow,
bruising progress, taking nearly 30 minutes to the top.
As you go up, the mast moves from side to side in the
waves. So as it dips to your side you pendulum out over
the water and seconds later you're swinging back to
collide with the mast. Ah, you say, surely he should
just hold on to the mast. Yes, easily said
rested near the top, I recalled the account of a couple
sailing to the Caribbean with the same mast climbing
system as us. But when he got to the top, he had a heart
attack. (I was feeling a bit jiggered myself). Because
it was a self climbing system, his wife couldn't get up
to help him, nor could she lower him down. So for the
remaining 3 days into port, she had to sail with her
husband's body flying from the top of the mast.
the top, sorting it out wasn't so hard, though the
exceedingly sharp safety knife I carry proved its worth.
When you get down you find the bruises are all on the
insides of your arms and legs; delightful shades of
yellow and purple. The spinnaker is now back in its bag,
where it will stay for some time.
in the Caribbean
are heading for the island of Carriacou which is
politically part of Grenada. Jann is joining us on
Boxing day (funny how the Caribbean section is more
popular than the Biscay section) so I want to clear in
so we can sail to the main Island without worrying if
Customs will be open on Boxing day. We've got all the
stuff in so we will have a traditional Christmas; except
the dining room is 26 degrees and we can step outside
into clear blue 30 degrees water.
So a Merry
Christmas to all and may the right winds continue for
Steve Landles - 2007
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December 2006 - The Watermaker
of equipment we had fitted to the boat was a water
maker. Handy because some of our passages are 30 days
between ports, so we would need a lot of tankage
otherwise. Eye wateringly expensive, but a mini chemical
works under the hatches. Feed pumps, high pressure
pumps, reverse osmosis membranes, primary, secondary and
4 other filters. It's a wonderful system. When it works.
out of the Canaries, Kirsty is preparing dinner when she
asks me to look into why there is limited water at the
sink. Lift a few floor hatches (standard procedure for
many problems) and found unlimited water. In fact the
entire 320 litres of our freshwater tank. (Sailors have
a crude way of determining the origin the origin of
water in the bilges, they put their finger in and taste
it. If it's salty it's from outside. If it's mostly OK
it's from the drinking water system. The third
possibility is from the waste water system; I imagine
that also has a distinctive taste.)
This is a
bad position. We're 24 days from the Caribbean and the
wind is the wrong way to get back to the Canaries. Our
emergency supplies are 5 litres of water and a 6 pack of
Fosters. I considered not pumping out the bilges on the
basis we might need it for survival. Investigation
showed the problem was a cracked filter bowl in the
watermaker. So, the system that was meant to provide our
water had consumed it all. We prepared a course to
divert to the Cape Verde Islands and sailed in that
direction all night. In the meantime, I discovered a way
of using fittings from the garden hose to isolate the
offending filter. So we ran the engine and watermaker
all night to make the water we had lost.
rather gloomy night, reviewing the situation in the
morning it was clear that we had refilled our tanks with
potable water and had a way of continuing to manufacture
more. So we were very happy to resume course for St
the winds are where they are meant to be. Trade winds,
blowing west between 15 and 25 knots. All day, all
night. So we are making excellent progress - typically
6.5 to 7.5 knots against a planning assumption of 5. The
distance was 2800 miles for which I had allowed 28 days.
But we will do it in 22 or less. The seas vary, from a 3
meter swell to half a meter - not difficult compared to
what we've had. The only issue with the bigger swell is
you can begin to surf off the waves which the auto steer
finds more challenging.
sailing with the wind dead behind you isn't ideal for a
modern yacht (but ideal for the square riggers). So we
sail 30 degrees off the direct course on a port tack,
taking us further South than we would prefer. Sometime
soon we'll gybe to the starboard tack which will point
us more directly at St Lucia.
board soon develops into a routine, centered around the
watches. At night we each do three hours, with 2.5 hour
slots by day. The slots we do move forward each day so
we all have a turn at each slot and repeat every 3 days.
There's not a lot to see. In 12 days we've seen 6 other
boats; nothing for the last 3 days. It's mostly sunny,
so when we're not on watch or asleep we sit in the
cockpit relaxing. The water which is beautifully clear
is 28 degrees. I'm tempted to go for a little dip off
the back but so far have been dissuaded by the crew. We
bake bread every other day, and cakes on treat days. At
dusk we watch the flying fish - amazing sight when a few
dozen take off at once and cover 100 meters or more.
Andy's first encounter with a flying fish was in the
dark when one landed on deck. He stood on it, which was
a big surprise to both parties. Sometimes I think it
would be nice to go for a stroll of more than 12 meters
in one direction, or sit down without the constant
motion, but mostly this is sailing at it's best.
position at 1200 GMT today was 14 degrees 55.49 minutes
N, 041 degrees 05.56 minutes W. Approx. 960 miles South
West of the Cape Verdes and 990 miles North of Brazil.
We are now just above the latitude for St Lucia, i.e. it
is due west from here. We have 1150 miles to go, are
about 6 days ahead of schedule and will probably make up
more. So St Lucia by 14 December or earlier, providing
the winds keep up and we have no further excitement.
Nov 2006 - Sailing to the Canary Islands
The winds down the Iberian coast
are supposed to blow from the north sending ships at
speed in a southerly direction. That's how the great
Portuguese navigators discovered so much. But, for the
past month they've been blowing in the wrong direction.
So those of us wanting to head south have had strong
winds and heavy seas on the nose all the time. Instead
of making Lisbon in one leg, we kept ducking into
smaller ports along the coast when we had enough. If
Vasco da Gama had this kind of weather he would never
have discovered anything.
last update had us sheltering from the storms in the
Spanish port of Portasin. After 3 days we ventured out,
heading for Lisbon, partially because the crew were
getting restless. But the seas were high, the rain
lashed down and the wind was directly against us. So
after a while we gave that up and went into a Portuguese
port, Figueira da Foz. Interesting place, but not enough
interest to sustain the crew for long. Again, after 3
days we ventured out again, only to put in again to
Nazere, a bit further down the coast. (Later we met a
Dutch couple who told us they had been sheltering at Foz
for 2 weeks. They wondered who was the only boat they
saw venture out). It was a consolation to hear that even
the sailing greats such as Robin Knox-Johnson had been
forced to turn back in those conditions. Nazere was full
of sheltering yachts that had been holed up for some
time so our initial berth was on the fish quay. You need
to imagine the smell.
As soon as the conditions got
better we pressed on to Lisbon where we had planned to
stay a few days. Sightseeing - the famous elevator, the
Tejo River, Sintra built when they chased the moors out.
next section was a 5 day sail (with a lot of motoring)
to Madeira. We stayed initially on the northern Island
of Porto Santo before making the short crossing to the
main Island. Funchal was a favourite with big cruise
ships - but who would want to travel that way. The most
interesting thing about Madeira is the system of Levadas
- medieval irrigation channels that run for miles from
the steep mountains. The walks alongside them are
breathtaking, and not for those who suffer vertigo.
Though if you don't like heights you should give Madeira
a miss. Even the road network has its moments. The old
roads climb the steep volcanic mountains; the new roads
(built with millions of EU funds) only leave the tunnels
to sweep across high bridges.
after a few days in Madeira we made the 3 day crossing
to the Canaries. That journey started fine; sunny day,
winds on the beam making better than 8 knots at times.
It wasn't to last, the winds dropped and the second half
was motoring. We are now berthed at Santa Cruz on the
island of La Palma, which is the most westerly of the
Canary Islands. Our initial berth was along side a rusty
and smelly trawler; now we're with the other yachts on
As well as looking around we are
getting the boat ready for the next leg. As an example,
I'm adding fiddles which are strips of wood at the front
of the shelves. When the boat is sailing hard and heeled
over it's soul destroying to open a cupboard to get the
coffee and have every can slide out.
We had the first medical
emergency of the trip. The skipper was coming down the
steps into the cabin in slightly wet shoes when he
slipped and headed down, slowed only by vertebrae
bumping each step and stopped when his head hit the
cooker at the bottom. Somewhere along the way a finger
got dislocated - for those of us who are squeamish this
looks worse than it probably was. The local hospital and
my EC medical card did the business and confirmed
nothing broken. My finger is now immobilized. The splint
makes me look like I'm wearing one of those comic hands
with a big pointing finger. Conclusion; the most
dangerous part of sailing is in port.
next section is the big one; 2,700 nautical miles to St
Lucia in the Caribbean. For planning food etc I
conservatively estimate 27 days, though we will probably
do it quicker. But this time if we hit storms there are
no ports to dive into. And if there is no wind once the
diesel runs out we'll be reduced to rowing.
The crew and I have both come on
a lot in terms of sailing skills. We play it quite safe
- track the big ships, make our position clear using our
active radar reflector - reef in early when there is
wind. Life jackets and harness at night as well as
storms. So all we need are non slip steps.
PS (for sailors and geographers)
Our current position is 28 degrees 41 minutes N, 017
degrees 46 minutes W. We started with a longitude of 0,
we've done 17 and by the time we do 180 we should be in
Australia. The latitude we started with was 51 degrees.
So, in terms of crossing the equator, we've done 23 and
got another 28 degrees to go.
Steve Landles - 2007
to Top Posted
October 2006 - Leaving England
everyone, Thought it might be tempting fate to give a
progress report too early but we are having a R&R
day today so it's a good opportunity. We left London on
27th Sep with photos at Tower Bridge. Took it leisurely
round the coast, just sailing by day and overnighting at
port. We were caught by gales at Brighton and had to
spend a couple of days there. At Southampton I wanted
the builder to fix up a few things so we were a couple
of days there. Our final day in England was Thursday
12th October when we left Falmouth.
had 4 days of good sailing; brisk wind, sunshine and
Dolphins for occasional company. Andy cooked real meals
each evening and Kirsty practiced strumming guitar in
the cockpit. Across the English Channel, across the
feared Bay of Biscay towards Finisterre. But on Sunday
we hit Force 7 - a near gale, with torrential rain,
large waves and no visibility.
to picture Kirsty holding onto the wheel with the boat
heeled well over, being lashed by continuous rain and
breaking waves. But, it was her watch... When it came to
my watch we were crossing the shipping lanes at night. I
could see on the radar that we'd been encircled by large
vessels and 3 were bearing down on us. As the range got
down 1/2 mile, whilst I was wondering what to do, the
rain cleared and we could now see them heading for us.
They look awful big at night, even half a mile away,
leading to some moments of discomfort. But scrupulous
observation of the maritime highway code by all of us
meant we passed each other safely.
wasn't going to let up and we didn't want to continue
getting wet so instead of pressing on to Lisbon we
headed for this small Spanish port of Portosin in the
Ria de Muros, just below Cape Finisterre. And that's
where we are now. Today's forecast says more gales, so
we're staying put. If you catch the shipping forecast,
listen out for Fitzroy. That's the area for us. As soon
as they stop forecasting gales for that area, we'll be
(for sailors and geographers) Our current position is 42
degrees 46 minutes North and 008 degrees 56 minutes
West. So, we started with a longitude of 0, we've done
nearly 9 and by the time we do 180 we should be in
Australia. The latitude we started with was 51 degrees
31 minutes. So, in terms of crossing the equator, we've
done 9 and got another 43 degrees to go.
Steve Landles - 2007
to Top Posted
September 2006 -
We're almost ready to set out on our long voyage. We
depart tomorrow - 1645 from Tower Bridge. From that
time, picking up email is going to be a little more
I will have 2 accounts: Sailmail is a system for
transmitting email using shortwave radio. It has none of
the speed or bandwidth we are used to, and depends on
the state of the ionosphere, sunspots and atmospheric
conditions. I can't manage a lot of data, so to make it
feasible, the service provider won't accept emails with
Bt internet will take big emails with attachments but
we can only pick it up if we are somewhere with WiFi or
internet cafes. So, if the message has no attachments,
send it by Sailmail. If it can wait, or is big with
attachments use BT internet. I will send or periodic
progress reports by email or I may set up a blog (if I
can figure out how).
see you all in 18 months!
Steve Landles - 2007
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