We are back online

After we crossed the Atlantic our pace slowed down and so did the updates to the website. The lack of updates was compounded by the repeated hacking of our website. For the technical, we used Joomla content management system. Free and powerful but a little clunky to work with. The version available at the time was 1.5. To update it to more recent versions was a big task as it was a lengthy manual process. Preparing the boat was more important. Unfortunately security vulnerabilities started to be exploited by hackers. Eventually our site was attacked once a week and the internet hosting company took it off line until the vulnerability was fixed. The latest version Joomla 3.3 has much better security and so the task began to port all the content to the new version. This was no easy task. I was helped by my friend Phil who started the process. After 3 weeks of daily fiddling I finally have a version that can go live. It is still work in progress as it needs to be dressed up a bit but all the content is there. We have just completed the articles from Rodney Bay to St Vincent and the Grenadines. where we are now. We are now up to date.

Atlantic Crossing

It has taken me some time to get my thoughts together, not about the facts but about the effect of the experience. A number of skippers in the Canaries were reflecting on the journey ahead and were apprehensive. We all agreed that you never read a blog or ARC posting which says it was terrible, so we were reassured.

We went out as a crew for a last night departure meal. The crew being myself, Ju my wife, Steph my youngest daughter (and a Commercial Yacht-master) and Matt her fiancée and Ocean Graduate. Despite a strong crew we were all quiet and reflective. Sir Robin Knox-Johnson once said, "Anyone who goes to sea and is not scared is a liar". A fitful night passed.

The new day dawned and there was so much happening it took all our minds off the journey ahead. Matt and Steph set about preparing the twin foresails and putting foam on the spreaders to avoid the main sail chaffing. I was getting last minute spares, all of which we never used, and Ju was tidying the boat as usual. At 11:30 we were hugely privileged to have a number of our friends around us and they joined us on Sephina. The photo below shows from left Helena, Elaine, Gren, Cherry, Steph, Matt, Johnie, Ju and myself. As they left the emotion took over and I was too choked up to say thank you.

Just after 12.00 we slipped the berth and headed out of the marina. There were hundreds of people cheering and bands playing. We motored out and were checked out and photographed by the ARC Crew standing at the end of the mole. It was a spectacular site seeing so many yachts of all shapes and sizes making their way to the start line.

We tried to keep out of every bodies way but saw one crash and an unfortunate boat get their jib sheets wrapped around their prop. Their dreams of a crossing were over and it made us doubly careful. We had no intensions of racing across the start line as a few minutes gained in relation to 20 odds days would be insignificant for the risk.

As 1 o’clock approached we turned the engine off and set the rig. We speeded across the line some 5 minutes later and were surprised to be overhauling some of the fleet. Just as we were relaxing into it a sudden rain squall drenched us.  The wind was perfect for the rig and we sailed directly down wind passed the end of Gran Canaria and were making a little west but mainly south. This is the preferred cruising route as the wisdom says “go south until the butter melts”.

The watch system kicked in and I was on 8pm-11pm, Ju 11pm-2am,  Matt 2am-5am and finally Steph 5am - 8am. Over the weeks I would often join Steph for breakfast to watch the sun come up. Theses were magical times.

On the second day the winds dropped and we deployed the parasailor. We used it for 2 hours and then the winds dropped again. Nothing for it but to put the motor on and it was on for the next 48 hours. Then much to the fleet's surprise a low pressure ridge built and instead of trade wind sailing we had brief headwinds then easterlies then northerlies and everything in between. This tested our twin foresails as both sails are on the same foil so it was not really possible to sail from a run to a broad reach. Beam reach and close hauled was no problem as the sails set against each other but anything after a beam until a dead run was not possible. We had to use our engine as with the swell and strength of the wind, changing to the genoa was not going to happen! The GRIB files (weather maps downloaded over the satellite phone) showed that as the low passed we were in for a further spell of no wind. We contemplated our options as we would run out of fuel if we carried on. I decided to head for the Cape Verde Islands to refuel. So the mighty Yanmar was switched on once again and we made best speed to Mindelo to get there before anyone else had the same idea and they ran out of fuel. I used the satphone to email the ARC to see if we could refuel without checking into the country. This was important as we had the cats and it would have meant getting a vet out and the corresponding expense and delay. Luckily they came back to say the Cape Verdes had a policy of Splash and Dash. Perfect. We soon relaised we were not the only ones using this strategy as we approached we spotted familiar yacht names on the AIS (Ship Identification System) also making their way to Mindelo. Amongst them were Aditi who also had exhaust problems and were planning a stop over to fix. We arrived and filled up with fuel and then anchored off to use the washing machine. Four hours later we were off, refuled and clean!.

Before we lost our sea legs we were off and had a nice beam reach sail down the sound to exit into another period of no wind. The Yanmar was on again and the sea became so flat that Ju decided to go for a swim in the Atlantic with the depths in thousands of meters we all kept a look out for sharks! There was time and quite enough seas to see to a few jobs. There was a small leak of sea water into the bilge. Matt and Ju traced it to the non return valve on the secondary electric bilge. The skin fitting was duly switched off to avoid any further leaks. Next the generator stopped working and Ju could smell diesel under our bed! On inspection it turned out to be the fuel pipe connection and it had parted company spilling fuel into the lazerette and then drain under our bed to the bilge. Matt fixed it and we were in service again.

Steph was master of the galley and as a “dry” boat we could not celebrate half way with champagne so she managed to cook us some great chocolate brownies. She also managed to cook in some challenging conditions aided by the use of M&S tinned curries.

Looking ahead I could see we were in for some wind. It soon kicked in and we had to head slightly north to keep the wind on our beam. The direction was set to veer so after a couple of days we would be able to use the twin foresails rig again and sail direct for St Lucia. I soon started to realize the winds were going to continue to increase in strength and now with 10 days to go I could see the weather files to the end. My heart sunk as I realized it would only get stronger and the seas would start to build. We had our sea legs but after another couple of days as we set off dead downwind the corkscrew motion and ferocity of the confused seas started to take its toll. None of us felt great but Ju had to retire to her bunk. For two days she was very seasick and I started to worry about dehydration. It was a testing moment for me as I had convinced her to do this with me and as I saw her crying I had to question why we were doing it. It is to her great credit that she never missed a watch throughout this time. The seas continued to build and we were now taking the odd wave broadside and the occasional wave over the stern. Some started to lap the dingy on the davits and this was a worry as if it got much worse the force could take the dingy off and the davits with it. We reefed even more but still the odd wave would knock the boat off course. I was amazingly surprised that during these roundings the auto pilot never missed a beat and put us right back on course again. It was a good decision to upgrade the drive unit to a beefy Simrad planetary gear unit instead of the usual rams. At this point the hot water connection to the clarifier came off for a third time since we left Deganwy. Stupidly, as we were only a few days from the finish, I had opened the second water tank. This meant that our entire water supply emptied into the bilge. We had no water and 5 days to go. We were saved by two things, one the decision to have a 240volt and 12 volt water maker and two, the emergency water bottles stuffed in the bilges. As at this point the generator was not working but we were able to run the engine to supply 12volts to make water. We started to drink the emergency water but after 8 hours our tanks were back full.

The weather continued to build. We reefed again as the wind was now consistently 25 knots and over and in the squalls reached over 35 knots. This is all very well on coastal sailing but with the wind and Atlantic swell it is a whole different ball game. At one point we reefed all the sail away and were considering using the drogue to add some directional stability. With no sails at all we were still doing over 5 knots. I wanted to tell Ju it would get better but I knew it wouldn’t. Matt and Steph were brilliant not only because of their ability but the confidence of youth made them see the up side all the time. I, on the other hand, had dark thoughts about rig and autopilot failure. I had been awake for over 40 hours and was sent to my bed with the sound of Genesis on full blast to clear my head of all the noises I started to think were things breaking. It is amazing how much you hallucinate when you are sleep deprived. I had some fitful sleep but as I awoke Matt noticed the head sail furler was twisted where it attached to the bow. This could result in rig failure. We had to slow the boat down and go forward to assess the cause. It became quickly apparent that the force of the wind on the two headsails was twisting the furler beyond normal limits. (Having two sails on the foil even if set on opposite sides still puts the force of both sails in the same direction on the furler) We slackened off the sheets as we had been having the sails bar tight to stop flutter, and this bought us some time. The attachment was via a clevis pin and split pin.

The split pin was under extreme pressure. I slept fitfully again that night and in the morning decided we had to jury rig some strain relief. Matt and I went forward and used some stainless steel bar and Dyneema rope with the “handy billy” to not only rig some strain relief but put in an emergency lashing in case the rig parted. Now we were settled again and were counting down the days until this was all over. The last day dawned and as if we had not had enough we were greeted with continued squalls with torrential downpours. By now we had the plan off pat. Reefing was easy as we had rigged the twin poles in such a way as to be able to reef all the lines from the cockpit. As we did not have to use the mainsail with the twin foresails rig it only took 20 seconds to do. Next we would simply switch on the radar, go below and wait for it to pass. This was better than the original plan of staying up top and getting soaked! The squalls continued throughout the day and at noon we were in site of land at last. We estimated we would be in just after dusk and as dusk started we were greeted with another fierce squall to remind us it was not over yet!


We were in sight of Pigeon Island and had to radio ARC finish line to tell them of our ETA. As we rounded the island I went for a shower to don our Sephina of Beaumaris polo shirts as Matt steered us to the finish line at 7pm. He let me helm it across and I radioed the committee boat to say there were three crew and two cats relieved to be here. That brought a laugh. We then went into Rodney Bay Marina to be greeted by Jon and Colin from Kika who had travelled all the way up from Marigot Bay to be there and Mary my ex Chief Exec who had travelled all the way from Wales to be there! With Mary’s friends and Kika’s crew clapping and applauding the whole waterfront of Rodney Bay Marina started to cheer and clap. Emotional. We were then greeted by the ARC welcome crew and were duly given our rum punch courtesy of St Lucia Tourist Board. That was very, very, very welcome. The ARC was over.

We had crossed an ocean in what the ARC later described as “One of the most challenging crossings in recent memory”. We had done 3,055 miles across the Atlantic and 5,122 miles since leaving North Wales. We were a family crew and I must thank them all for making my dream possible.The talk on the pontoons were of a horrible last 8 days and many skippers were contemplating changing their plans.  Will we ever cross another ocean? I don’t think so, but more on our plans later.

Marina Tenerife Port No 17

We arrived in the northern most marina in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Monday, 23rd October. There are two marinas in Santa Cruz and the oldest is the Marina Tenerife. It is quiet, very Spanish and despite a frosty reception for not booking as they were "very busy" we have been able to enjoy a long stay and have only seen 5 other boats arrive in three weeks and there are still vacant berths. There is a great marina restaurant and befitting the description above only opens 10:30 am until 4pm, closed on Mondays. Only Spanish is spoken and it is frequented by locals, some of whom seem to own boats! The marina is 3 miles away from Santa Cruz capital with all its shops, restaurants and bars. It is a mile and a half away from San Andres with the best beach onTenerife. No high rises, no hotels and again frequented by locals. There is a cycle way from San Andres past the marina to Santa Cruz and it is alway busy with joggers, walkers and cyclists. We have taken to using the folding bikes most days to cycle into town. Early on we discovered a small local pavement cafe in town with fast internet access and we have visited frequently. I have also discovered how to download BBC iPlayer content in the cafe, transfer and play it to the TV on the boat. However I am refusing to do Eastenders!  Santa Cruz is a great town and it is definitely a place one could settle in. Good job we have to keep moving. One of our great friends came over from the Uk to visit us for a week and we did the tourist things including a visit up Teide. The mountain itself is impressive but the caldera (larger crater caused by the emptying of the magma following an eruption) is huge and stretches for miles appearing to be a mountain range in itself. We also discovered some fine restaurants in the week which we have repeatedly visited. So the next stop is the final one before the Atlantic crossing. We are not rushing as we know it will be a bustle and it is so nice here!

PS... Just as I am finishing this post the phone rings. Daughter No2 is on a cruise in the Med and rings to tell us she is engaged. Well what a perfect start to a day. She will be joining us with her partner or I should now say fiancé, to sail across the Atlantic. Caribbean wedding.......?

The ARC logs

Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 22 - Meet the Sparkes' 16 December 2013

Now if I said to a lot of people that they had to go and spend 3 weeks isolated on a 40 foot yacht in the middle of the Atlantic with their soon to be in-laws... well we can all imagine their reaction. So this is my account of such a trip....... Now to start with, a little back story. Nothing about my relationship with my Fiancée Steph or the Sparkes Clan has been in what I would call real time. For example, Steph and I had barley been together when we got our first job together and we soon flew out to run a yacht flotilla. So from day one we were in each others pockets. But it worked. And the same really applies to my in-laws to be. I have, between winter and summer seasons working with Steph, managed to go up to the Sparkes family home on three occasions. Usually these consist of lots of family and friends gathering to welcome Steph home. Luckily these encounters allowed them to get to know me enough to trust me with a family heirloom, so I could use it for Steph’s engagement ring. However, having been with Steph for nearly 2 years abroad, there wasn’t that same familiarity as if we had been at home. But I knew these were not going to be your average in-laws. I mean, plans to sell up everything from the past 50-odd years and sail around the world..... well, can you see your in-laws doing that?! So when asked to cross the Atlantic with them, it was an immediate yes. Of course it was. What an opportunity this was. Not only would it be a great life experience for both Steph and myself, it would also give Steph some well needed time with her parents. Now in the lead up to the trip, and our departure from the UK to meet the yacht. It was mentioned in passing by Ju (mother in law) that this would give us all time to really get to know each other. This got me thinking, hmmm I’ve seen this before, oh yes, first job with Steph. Can’t hide anything about yourself living in such small quarters. I knew this would be a fun experience for us all! With only 24hours left of the journey we have come to the end of the crossing and I have had time to reflect upon our fantastic journey. It seems the comment of we will really get to know each other definitely came true. Here are just a few of the many examples; I was named 1st mate from day one and during the prep was left with Clive (father in law) to complete tasks on the beautiful yacht. It did feel odd to start with having him ask for my advice, normally it would be the other way around but with Steph and myself being commercially endorsed yacht masters, and working in the sailing industry, I can see why the questions arose. This really gave both he and I time to get to know each other. And as Steph and Ju says, there is a small “Bro-mance” going on. Their words not mine. One of the reasons for this, I think, is because when things start getting a bit technical, instead of it going over Ju’s day-skippers head, issues have been acknowledged and discussed between Clive & myself, often with results proven to give us that little bit more speed or better winds. I'm sure this is what every skipper wants from their crew. Plus Ju has mentioned to Steph that Clive likes having another man onbaord (aside from the cats). One of these such “Bro-Mance” moments happened at the back of the yacht when the fishing rod started to twitch uncontrollably. Luckily, I managed to land this beautiful fish and that brief 20 minutes was a true hunter gatherer moment for both of us with Clive handing me the tools to kill/bludgeon this fish. Brilliant dinner that night. And Ju, well I always wondered how families managed without a dishwasher in their house, I now know they must all come with a Ju installed. There is a small porthole from the cockpit through to just above the galley sink. And although Steph and I cook, no matter whether Ju has been ill in bed or has not partaken in the food, you just pass your dirty plates through the hole and wow, its done. Same goes with the clothes washing, but not through the same porthole. All that happens is I get changed in the forward cabin and next thing I know is the washing is being hung out over the guard rails. Brilliant. AT 2am I have a tendency to sleep through my alarm. To begin with Ju would wake Steph up first to get her to wake me up when I was late, as both of us are asleep in the saloon. However, as the trip has gone on Ju is obviously much more comfortable around me as she now does a vague morse code pattern into my eyes with a torch or failing that simply shouts “matt its your watch!!” Again, imagine your mother-in-law waking you up like this....unusual to say the least! A clear indication that things are totally relaxed between us now! As time has gone on, things have started to get even more relaxed. Particularly in the dress code area. A serious lack of trousers or shorts has happened to which Steph has been very embarrassed about. With a response from Ju saying its fine, we will be in bikinis when we get there. Just pretend we are in them now. Now I’m sure that is fairly simple, but have you ever tried to imagine your father in law in a bikini. Its fairly hard to do. Haha. So I think I can safely say that my encounter with the Sparkes Clan has been somewhat of a baptism of fire in all respects. But that has resulted in what I would call, a pretty good relationship between the Dare-Edwards and the Sparkes onboard. And that’s all for now folks. Hope you have enjoyed this blog. Friendly fisherman Matt

14/12/2013 Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 20 Pigs to the rescue

As there is far too much rolling and being thrown about I’ve got some ugly bruises to contend with. On one of the days I had to stay in bed and dose myself up with Stugeron and paracetamol. I refused to eat or drink so when I finally surfaced at 6pm I was told I had to have something. The only thing I could face were chewy sweets but there were none left in Week Three’s snack box. Did this count as an emergency? The skipper was asleep so I gathered the rest of the crew (all two of them) to have a vote. Fortunately, they saw the situation as an emergency so I went to retrieve the emergency snack box from it’s hiding place. Only two of us knew where it was hidden but as there aren’t many places to hide things on the boat I think there are now three of us who know where it is. (The laundry room.) I opened the treasure chest and was amazed at the vast array of goodies as we’d obviously saved the best for last. Were there any chewy sweets? Yes, thank you Marks and Spencer, there were four Percy Pig packs. I was saved! I greedily devoured two packs and Steph had the third. Biting into Percy’s face was a life saver and then when I got to his jelly ears I was in heaven. They just hit the spot. I looked at the last pack and looked at Steph. “I may have to keep that incase I can’t eat anything else!” There are some things that come between a mother and her daughter. Ju, Ship’s Mother


13/12/2013 Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 19 WINDY


Just a short one as we are busy riding the waves! The next two days bring the windiest period of the rally getting to 24 knots with gusts at 28 so we are all getting used to the motion. We are currently looking at arrival somewhere around Tuesday morning all being well. Looking forward to it Skipper

10 December 2013 Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 17: Twistles & Needle Point


After sailing over night for the first time in AGES! I experienced a change of wind during my watch, at around 6.30am it spun around in EXACTLY the direction we’ve prepared for...2 weeks into the trip.....better late than never! This meant after a speedy water conscious shower we popped on deck & put up Dad’s famed Twistle rig – for those with no idea, its basically 2 sails pinned out with poles from the fore-stay (the pointy end of the boat). We’ve been hooning it along at 7knts ever since – the GPS has even predicted us getting to St Lucia within 4days & 12hours.......YEAH RIGHT! Bets are on & dad is guessing we’ll be in on Monday at some time, I recon more like Tuesday ... Mums a bit more optimistic saying Sunday & Matt’s really bringing moral down by picking Wednesday. We had some more aquatic visitors today, a pod of dolphins (around 50 of them) followed us for about an hour this morning & joined us again later in the day. They’ve obviously come to admire our Twistle rig :) The sliced bread is being severely rationed for toast in the morning – we’re on our last half loaf :0!!!!!! This meant we had wraps for lunch so that was a bit of excitement! We’ve still got some part baked bread & loads of bread kits, but I doubt we’ll end up being brave enough to use them. It’s been a bit rolly polly today – but despite this I was taking a risk & getting out my cross stitch this afternoon! I’ve pricked my finger a few times but am happy to report that I can do it in a rolly sea & it’s not made me queasy. I’m sure no one else has mentioned on the blogs my devastating loss.........it brings a tear to my eye just writing this.........but I’m deeply unhappy to report that at around 4.30am on Saturday morning my iPad died :’( I did shed possibly an excessive amount of tears over it ... I know this because after 10minutes of consoling me Matt said ‘OK you’re going over the top now’. I’ve just about come to terms with the loss & am praying for an Apple shop in the Caribbean. The crew are telling me to not get my hopes up...... Overly optimistic Skipper ... Steph


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 16 Washing Machine and not the one I installed 09 December 2013


Nothing much to say today as everyone is quiet as the sea and wind has got up and we are in a bit of a washing machine for the next 48 hours. Steph and Matt are doing sterling work keeping the boat going but not too quickly. Cats OK and will write more when it is quieter. Clive


Sephina of Beaumaris - The Real Day 14.... Hot Hot Hot 08 December 2013

After a very humid night last night and a boring, uneventful watch, I woke up to find it raining this morning. I hate rain as it makes sitting on deck very unpleasant. We settled into our daily routines but there was no chance of me hanging any washing out. As we’ve nearly come to the end of week 2 I thought it would be a good idea to check on the snack rations. So far, so good. We’ve nearly finished the Week 2 box of goodies and haven’t broken in to Week 3’s box. (Unless someone has been sneaky behind my back!). And, we still have the emergency snack box well hidden and untouched. There looked like there’d been a murder in the shower room this morning. There were streaks of red running down one of the walls and into the shower tray. It looked a bloody mess. Out with the bleach and it was soon spick and span again, but what had happened? The Ship’s Medic in me stayed calm and assessed the scene. No one appeared hurt and on further investigation it appeared that the offending trickle of red was leaking from Matt’s wash bag that was hanging up in the shower. While he and Steph were watching telly I stripped the offending wash bag and took it to pieces for a thorough clean. Mysteriously there was nothing red in there so it’s back in the shower again and we’ll see if the same spooky goings on happen again tonight. The Cleaner PS Spot Peri the navigator in the photo


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 14 - Hot, Hot and more Hot 07 December 2013


Well the past few days have been a little slow for all onboard. This is mainly due to the massive lack of wind. This does give lots of free time and that means lots of revision!! We have had the engine on permanently and this combined with the already scorching sun turns this boat into a Furness. I must report however that our plan of going to refuel in the Cape Verdes islands has really put us at a big advantage. We have had communications with other boats out here who are slowly dropping back due to fuel shortage. This is actually a real problem as most of them rely on the fuel to power their water makers. We know of some who have been becalmed and some that are doing less than half our ground distance per day now. But having said that, we are currently running with around 4-5 more days of fuel, and are around 9 days away from st.Lucia. We are hoping that the current weather forecast that shows the trade winds really picking up on Monday and Tuesday comes true. If it does, our plan would have been executed perfectly!! On the brighter side though, we have had a cake cooked for us by our onboard chef, Steph. Brilliant marble icing on top. Mmmm. Had to be mentioned. On the fishing side of things, I think I have definitely found the right lure for me. It seems to be fairly reliable however, my technique for reeling them in is not so good. So far I have had 5 fish take the bait. Out of those 5, I have managed to land 2. One of which being too small to feed all onboard so it was a quick removal of the hook with Steph begging me to be quick & don’t hurt it, then back in the sea it went to show off to all his fish friends how he had fought of a human and got the scars to prove it. Apart from that the only other news is that Thornton (the cat) grows fonder of me every day. I think I have most likely made a friend for life. Or it may just be cupboard love, we shall see. For now, that’s all folks. Friendly fisherman/first mate/assistant chef/cats pal/future son in law/Matt P.S. With only 9 more days to go I think I will only have one more blog to go, keep your eyes peeled, its going to be great!!


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 12 Are we there yet? 06 December 2013


The dilemma of when is half way has played out over the past two days. The distance from Las Palmas to St Lucia is reported to be 2800 miles in the pilot books. We have so far logged 1525 so we are well over half way. Not so. As the route we have taken is via the Cape Verdes then the actual distance is 3000 miles. We achieved the former yesterday and the latter today. There is another half way which is when the rhumb line route to Las Palmas is equal to the rhumb line route to St Lucia. This will be later today. But is is actually when we have an equal number of days? As it is day 12 and the GPS says there is 11 to go then we are surely over half way. The only good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate half way. So far we have baked a cake, had a three course meal and tomorrow we might celebrate again with Nachos. Clive (Just holding on to being skipper)


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 11 Part 2 - Changing Time Zones 04 December 2013


I’ve mentioned before how the sun was getting later coming up in the morning. Today the sun didn’t rise until past 8am – after I finished my shift. A clear indication that we were well & truly into a new time zone – confirmed by Matts iPhone (but oddly no-one elses) automatically going backwards an hour – we knew it was time to change the clocks!! With our new time zone we seemed to have sailed into the tropics! The weather is baking hot – almost unbearable to be down below for pro-longed periods of time during the day. Gone are the days of wearing wooly socks at night & a jacket in the day!! The cats have noticed the heat increase & are spending a lot of time basking in the heat on their bellies. We had them upstairs today for most of the day – keeping our eyes on them & cooling them down with some cold water behind their ears. Time to go & get some air upstairs & keep our fingers crossed for some wind; not only so that we can sail, but so that we can bloody cool down! & attempt to get our body temps. below 1 million degrees. The sun-burnt skipper ...... Steph


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 11 The Brochure and a Dilemma 03 December 2013


It finally happened. After 11 days of all sorts of weather I awoke to the brochure picture. The sun came up from right behind us, as we are going west now, and within an hour the sky was full of “fair weather cumulus” All we need now is 5 more knots of wind and we will be flying. Talking of which, we flew the Parasailor yesterday in very light wind just to make sure we knew how to rig and set it. The crew took some photos and it would be hard to not notice we are from the “Land of our Fathers” with all the Welsh references. Today we hope to fly it in anger and see if we can up our speed. I have a skippers dilemma. When to brake into the week 4 snack box! Steph who is responsible for provisioning has dutifully dived up the sacks into 4 week boxes and the 4th one is the reserve. However all the best treats are in the week 4 box including the Milka Oreo chocolate bars that I personally selected from the supermarket. OK if the worst happens and we are significantly delayed due to gear failure it is good psychology to have the best treats in the week 4 box. Should I just through caution to the wind and open it now? Should I wait for half way or the last couple of days? This will surely keep me awake at night as the ginger biscuits just don’t cut it anymore. Clive


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 10 Interrupted Cat Naps 02 December 2013


It’s been an odd week since we set off from land and the owners are behaving very strangely. They’ve developed some odd routines and rituals. When I go to bed, my favorite owner is there to cuddle me and we have a lovely snooze for a few hours and then suddenly bells start ringing and she shoots out of bed, gets dressed and puts on a big vest/jacket. I ignored this for the first couple of nights but then I thought I’d follow her to see where she was going. She went upstairs into the dark and then sat there alone with a flask of coffee. She was reading her book thing but I don’t understand why she had to go upstairs in the dark to do this. She does this every night and then after a few hours she comes back down and goes to bed again. I don’t get it. Matt has started to act strangely as well. He keeps putting his vest/jacket on and going to the back of the boat with a pole and piece of line with something dangling on the end of it. He then throws this thing into the water and watches it. I don’t see the fun in this but he keeps popping upstairs to look at it and seems fascinated for some reason. And one day there was a lot of shouting and everyone ran upstairs to watch Matt pulling something out of the water. It was a fish as big as me. Matt was very excited and then got really cross with the fish and hit it over the head a few times with a hammer. I think he was cross because the fish had tried to eat the thing he likes to watch in the water. It’s only been a week and they’re all behaving quite erratically. I’ve spoken to Thornton to voice my concerns and will continue to monitor the situation and keep notes. I think maybe they’ve been sitting upstairs in the sun for too long. I’m very fond of them all so would hate for anything to happen to them, but I’m also aware that I need to keep an eye on them as they provide our food and see to our needs. Without them we’re in trouble as we have no idea where our home is moving to. Peri (The cute one)

Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 9 Pit Stop 02 December 2013


After leaving Gran Canaria thinking the next land we will see is St.Lucia, one week after our departure we called into Mindelo. However, unlike several of the other ARC yachts there, we did not need to wait around for repair work etc. It was a simple sail in, wait 10 minuets for fuel and then off again. It was what I’d call an F1 pit stop. We did however anchor up for a couple of hours just so that we could get the washing machine on (something that I am still not used to). Being out of the wind whilst at anchor we suddenly realised how hot it is, and were glad to finally get on the move again. So far contact with home has been fairly simple, simply pick up the sat phone and call home. I was eager to call yesterday as being out here, I missed the final autumn international between Wales and Australia. Turns out it was a great game, but we lost. I know all my family and Steph’s and also friends are watching our progress and keeping up with the blog so a big Hellooo to you all. For all those watching you may have noticed that after clearing the islands we have finally set our compass to 270 WEST. No more heading south for us, finally we are on our way to sunny St.Lucia. Friendly fisherman....Matt P.S. Saw the cats whispering earlier and pointing up at the laptop...strange.


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 8 ­ Miserable weather 01 December 2013


We’ve had some lovely sunny days. I’ve been swimming, we’ve all been on deck and then suddenly it all changes. The ocean decided to make it a miserable night for sleeping and then a miserable day to follow. At night I tried various sleeping positions to get to sleep but the boat was rolling about so much that I couldn’t stay still in bed. I tried my usual face down, arms and legs stretched out like a starfish but that didn’t work. Then I tried sideways on where the pillows are and wedging my feet into the cupboard. That failed as well. While all this was going on I was trying not to roll onto the cats. They just lay in the middle of the bed and rolled in time with the boat. I can‘t believe how they’ve adapted so well to the movement. I was watching Thornton during the day and he was sitting upright on a mat while the boat was pitching and rolling, Things were crashing in cupboards and we were grabbing on to the sides. He just sat there with his eyes closed and leaned in to the movement of the boat reaching ridiculous angles to the floor. Amazing1 Meanwhile, the miserable day continued. It rained. I had washing out on the guard rails so that set me off in a bad mood. It was too choppy for me to do any cleaning. Another situation I wasn’t happy with. What else was there for me to do to prove my worth? It was too wet when I was on watch to read my Kindle so boredom set in and I had too much time to brood over the laundry. This was not going well but Clive promised that the wind would calm a bit during the evening so my spirits lifted and I started to plan my next day’s chores with renewed enthusiasm. Ju The cleaner (AKA Ship’s Medic)

Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 7 ­ Aquatic Creatures 30 November 2013


Well!! What an exciting day we’ve had today!! My 5am shift usually sees the sun rising at around 7am, today it was 45minutes late – a sign we are shifting between time zones & well on our way. At around 8am as it was getting light I spotted a few fins near to the boat swimming in the opposite direction – one turned around & joined us for a brief few seconds before scooting off to catch up with its buddies. I just love dolphins, in all my years sailing no matter how many times I see them its always as magical as it was the very first time I saw one! They are so majestic! Later this afternoon I was watching a film down below with Matt when my mum, who was on watch, started shouting about dolphins – we ran up on deck & there were what seemed like hundreds of them surrounding the yacht as we sailed along. We all ran up to the bow & watched as they darted around our wake jumping in & out & probably having the time of their lives. Just gorgeous! Yesterday, we were lucky enough to see a fin whale ahead of the yacht slowly passing over the surface of the flat calm ocean. We slowed down & approached it at a reasonable pace hoping to catch a glimpse – but it either darted off or went to deep for us to see – my mission is to see a whale before the end of the trip – having never seen one before!! Our final bit of aquatic excitement came when Matt sauntered over to the fishing line, very casually, to reel it in for the day – a little glum, worrying he was never going to catch one – when suddenly the line pulled & he’d got a bite!! He reeled it in like a pro & the result was a bloody great Durado (not sure on the spelling) which was a stunning bluey green colour – a couple of whacks on the head with the hammer from Matt, with me squealing in the background, & it was a dull grey, ready to be gutted & eaten! & oh how we ate ;) fish freshly caught & cooked within 15minutes while underway somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean – another unforgettable day on our journey. Squealing Fish Wife…….Steph


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 6 Rain and the ARK 29 November 2013


This is Peri and Thornton the ship’s cats here. OK we now get it. Our captors/owners started going to a shed in N.Wales 3 years ago and continued to go there every Saturday for 2 years. We had no idea what they were doing but parcels started to arrive at the house from Mailspeedmarine, Force 4, MarineSuperstore and ebay activity was significantly up. With that clue and the numerous boat magazines littering the house we guessed they were building a boat. But why? And then it hit us. North Wales is very rainy and this ARC thing was really code for the second ARK. This was confirmed when we learned it was all being coordinated by the “Bishop” or Andrew to his friends. Unlike the first ARK this was going to be a collection of small boats each taking two animals. As two cats we knew we were on Sephina. As we made our way to the meeting up of the other ARK boats we realized they were all different. Luckily there was one big enough to take the two elephants but we were concerned that they didn’t seem to have one for the giraffes but perhaps they had to lie down. It also seems that everyone wanted to take the monkeys as we saw a chap called “Jerry” testing out the climbing frames. Luckily he didn’t choose ours. As we left we saw the two cockroaches board but we are not saying on which boat just yet! Peri and Thornton (At Sea)


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 5 No Water and Lots of Water 28 November 2013


As we went to bed on day 4 the bilge was full of water and the water tank gauge empty! I remembered Chris Tibb’s session on Management of Emergencies and his helpful words to the effect “It will all seem better in the morning”. So nothing for it but to go to bed. It didn’t stop me catastrophising in my sleep. Will we die of thirst? In the morning I remembered that the ship was nearly sinking as we left port with the hundreds of coke cans in the bilges. We will not go without fluid but our teeth might rot! My wife is the ace bilge detective having lovingly painted every one in the refit. We turned on the second water tank and water started to gush into the bilge. In a flash she said “It’s coming from under our bed” How did she know this from looking at the main bilge? The engine was turned off so we had quiet, the bed was stripped and boards removed to reveal a blown joint into the hot water tank. (Calorifier for boaties) A few new jubilee clips and a tweak on the pressure reducing valve finished the job. Ok the power shower won’t be quite as effective but the joints will hold. As the boat was stationary in dead calm we were roasting. My wife opted for a swim. Remembering the film “Deep Water” we checked the ladder was down. Now all refreshed we sign off all going for a shower. Oh and the sailing? There hasn’t been any. We are motoring in mirror seas and might call into the Cape Verdes for a refuel. Clive (One of at least 4 Skippers on this boat.)


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 4 - Cats, Movies, Brownies & Nachos 27 November 2013 Day 4


Well today started out just like the past few, early 2am watch. Stare into the nights sky, off at 5am for a quick sleep before the boat wakes up. My task first thing was to befriend one of the cats (Thornton). He has in previous encounters with me liked my company so I was hired to get some food into him as he hasn’t eaten since we set off. Much to my joy he ate the first thing I gave him, setting in Ju’s mind that he finds her evil (for force feeding him water) and I am the new cat feeder a task I greatly enjoy. Lots of purring and meowing coming my way! Then, rig check just to keep on top of it all, as usual with this lovely yacht, all was well. Then sail configuration change, poles lowered and rigged for close haul sailing due to this unfortunate wind direction. All went well and we have found out two headsails can both fill on one side giving a genoa rig saving us the trouble of trying to fold lowered sails for stowage, a task not easily undertaken on a 40 foot yacht in atlantic swell. Now things get better, my fiance and I retired down below to watch a film on the giant plasma screen in the saloon (no joke). Followed by home made chocolate brownies yum yum. Then Nachos for dinner with lots of chilli. A quick play on the ipad and a few hours revision for my cruising instructor course and then off to bed with my new best pal Thornton. Ahhh – Sailing, what’s so hard. Signing off, Future son in Law/Ocean Skipper/Matt


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 3 Sunny days 27 November 2013


At last the sun is out and it’s getting hot! We’ve all settled into our night shifts very well but the day shifts have gone out of the window thanks to the sun. Everyone wants to be on deck and we lose track of time. The cats have been in the cockpit under supervision and they seem confused sniffing the air as there’s no land, but they seem happy enough. Peri is eating and playing as usual but Thornton just wants to sleep. We’ve had the water maker on today and topped up all our water bottles and we’ve all had showers, which was gorgeous!! Steph cooked a lovely chicken stroganoff and added red wine. The only alcohol we’ll see for several weeks. Signed “The Cleaner”


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 2 Rude Awakenings & Mysterious Flashing Lights 26 November 2013


Day 2 began for me with a rude awakening from one of the cats, Thornton: leaping onto my belly & meowing full force into my face, desperate for attention. Luckily for me (& for him) it was 4.45am & time for me to get up & get ready for my 1st watch of the day. I scampered onto the deck (only a few minutes late) & sent Matt down for a sleep. First thing I saw as my eyes adjusted to the darkness was a sailing welly floating past the boat in the sea. I checked for any other signs of a person in the water but couldn’t see any! A sailor somewhere is going to be cross when he realizes he’s lost one of his boots overboard! 5minutes after that & a flash of orange light caught my eye on a vessel up ahead of us. Convinced it was a flare I shouted down to wake my Fiancée Matt who quickly came on deck. I was so panicked by it I then rushed to get skipper out of bed too. We listened intently to the radio & watched as the vessel came closer. Turns out it was a bloody great container ship with a hundred deck lights, not some poor family scrabbling to get into their dinghy. (To our relief!!) After apologizing to the crew & sending them back to bed I had a very uneventful watch. I watched the sun come up with some peanut butter on toast (yum yum!!) The rest of the day went smoothly, lots of snoozing, playing with the cats & watching the horizon for signs of life - this is the life hey!!! Over & Out ;) 3rd in command / watch keeper / chef ........ (Steph)


Sephina of Beaumaris - Day 1 Nothing to Report... 24 November 2013


Well firstly I thought I would be too seasick to write this and secondly I thought there would not be a lot to say. The first has proved to be incorrect and the second true. But we are on our way. The emotion seeing friends off at the start was a little hard to bare. I was chocked up and couldn’t say much. This was further compounded by the emotional spectacle of the fleet departure. All in all it made you feel alive. It was a good decision to join the ARC. The start was uneventful apart from trying to miss other boats. We are sailing along at a steady 5 knots and we have reached 8 knots at times. The “Twistle” rig has proved to be easy to handle and effective and with modifications learnt at the seminars it is very efficient. Thanks to Bojan for the tips and Stuart from Seatech for the numerous soft shackles. So the evening meal beckons and the night watches begin. Lets hope all is still well in the morning. I will try and get the other skippers to write a little each day. Clive (The Real Skipper)


Las Palmas Port No 18

Finally Sephina has made it to the start of the ARC, a life long ambition. We even came out to Gran Canaria last year for a holiday to get our bearings. So imagine how excited we were, my wife and I having brought our boat from N.Wales some 2000 miles to arrive in Las Palmas. We eagerly stepped off at the waiting pontoon to be greeted by a marina official who definitely needs to go on a customer care course. As he walked passed us waiting out side there was no response to my rehearsed "Beunas Tardis" just a grumpy "Skipper only in the office" my wife was dismissed. Then copies of my documents were taken despite being asked to scan them and send them in advance. What was the point? No other marina in the 17 visited on route required this and then my notification of needing an alongside berth was dismissed. Despite assurances this was possible it was refused. Our punishment for this was being told to stay on the waiting pontoon until tomorrow with no information, no toilet access and locked gates so we are prisoners. Luckily our friends were on pontoon "T" so we made a break for it in the Dinghy and celebrated arrival with them . Welcome to the start of the ARC.

After our imprisonment on the waiting pontoon dawn broke and a new day was in prospect. The Marina staff were waiting for us and after I recounted my traumas of the day before there were apologies and an assurance words would be had! We were then allocated a stunning berth with alongside so the cats can be taken for their walks. :-) All the formalities were over and an ARC information pack provided. We were advised to get fuel before the rush and we were then escorted to the berth and lines were taken. Suddenly we felt we had arrived. Welcome to the ARC 2013. We are at peace.

It was to be a great place to be. The town of Las Palmas was another town better for the knowing. My wife has recounted more of the action in her "Pink and Fluffy " pages but the highlight for me was not the ARC festivities but the meeting of old friends.