Posted by: williekp | October 9, 2016

Crossing Biscay

When we left things last time it was a bit touch and go crew wise as to how we were going to get across Biscay. I even thought I might have to sail back up the channel and take Lila to the Med through the French canals. Harriet who was the only crew at that stage didn’t seem too keen on that so we went into overdrive to recruit suitable crew at short notice. A while ago when this whole idea was brewing I joined the Cruising Association (CA). It is not anything to do with gay bars. It’s a non profit for people who cruise, live aboard and share info on how to make life generally easier. They have a crewing service so I updated my needs on there and on Crewseekers. In addition the CA has a section where potential crew set out their experience and what they are interested in. So Harriet and I made a list and e- mailed about 20 prospects. Next day we phoned up the best candidates on the list. To cut a long story short, we recruited two who could join us on the Wednesday to make a weather window of 4 days that started on the Thursday.

It takes 4 days to cross Biscay offshore. My insurance also stipulated that I wouldn’t be covered if I didn’t make the crossing before end of Sept when storms become more frequent. We set off on Thursday 15 th Sep with a forecast of North Westerly winds of 20 knots gusting to 23kts for the first two days and then light winds after that.The two crew were a man and a woman. The chap had done a single handed Atlantic circuit and  was both a good sailor and a really good shipmate. The woman’s sailing CV read like Sir Francis Chichester. She was a disaster. A moaning passenger who broke the bog seat twice, bog door once and managed to lock us all out of the boat by changing the combination on the lock without knowing that she had done it. She was the only person seasick. She also had no discernable receive mode and seemed to be stuck on transmit. I had paired her with the other chap and felt very guilty about it. She was also permanently late for her watch and left her massive amounts of stuff in everyone else’s spaces. Needless to say when we got to Northern Spain we didn’t see much of her.

Back to the crossing itself. We had to motor for a good distance out of Falmouth as there wasn’t much wind but once we found the wind we found a bit more than we had expected. It was averaging 29 kts and gusting to 37 which in shipping forecast terms is Force 7 gusting F8. The sea was also not great with at least two wave trains running in different directions. When they met they sort of exploded upwards. So we got to see what Biscay has got its reputation for. This meant I was kept busy on the foredeck reefing so we didn’t have too much sail up for the wind. We ended up with three reefs in the main and Lila self steered that whole first night beautifully.

We had a good sail the next day until the wind dropped out and then we motored or motor sailed for the remaining two days and docked in A Coruna in N Spain early on Monday 19th. All safe and sound with nothing broken. Except the bog seat twice etc etc.

On the way across we saw a lot of wildlife. The highlight of the wildlife was a large pod of pilot whales who followed us in daylight for about half an hour. There were at least 20 of them ranging in size from about 20 feet down to babies. I got lots of good pictures but unfortunately got my camera wet in A Coruna and lost the pictures. The memory remains.


Our excellent crew member

The crew left in A Coruna and Harriet and I managed the boat around to a place called Camarinas. We anchored up for a couple of days to await the arrival of John Bullard who was returning to help crew us down to Lisbon. On the day JOHN was to arrive, Harriet got a call from home that meant she had to abandon her plans and return to look after someone close to her who was unwell. That was a sad loss as she had been a great crew member . Poor John turned up to find that it was just he and I.

He and I managed Lila without much help from the wind round Cape Finisterre and down the coast calling for a few days at Porto and Lisbon. Most of the other stops were brief either on the anchor or one nighters in a marina. The stops in Porto, Vigo and Lisbon were fun but it is a long way down here and I wanted to schedule a break before the next leg to Maderia and the Canaries. That meant for me that it sometimes felt less like cruising and a bit more like a delivery trip. I intend to fix that from here going forward, only sailing when there is wind suitable for what we want to do. We did have a bit of fog which made for some nice pictures.


Cape Finisterre looming up out of the fog


Fishermen dredging by hand in the early morning fog


Motley crew safely in Lisbon

We have been working a bit on the boat and boat handling with modifications to the self steering and putting up and down the topsail.


Topsail flying!

Tomorrow I am back home for about a week with Lila laid up here in Lisbon. Crew is arranged for the next legs to Maderia and the Canaries and that will be a bit of a selection exercise as to who will make the Atlantic crossing in January. The plan is to make it to the Canaries by about end of October and then cruise the Canaries for a few weeks before laying Lila up again until January when we will reconvene for the trip to the West Indies via the Cape Verde islands. More about that next time. Thanks for reading this and feel free to comment. Willie



Posted by: williekp | September 24, 2016

Cowes to Falmouth

Positioning for a crossing of The Bay of Biscay

On the first of September we convened for a shake down cruise in East Cowes. There were six on board that day including myself and Sarah who had come to meet the crew. The crew were two women and two men. Harriet and Joyce and John and Glenn

imageWe did the shake down sail in the Solent and after a few emotional goodbyes between Sarah and myself we left the next day on the tide down through the Needles channel and heading for an anchorage at Studland bay near Poole harbour. Joyce left us too and is planning on joining us in Lisbon for the open ocean sail to Maderia and down to the Canaries.


It is not easy making ones way west to position to cross Biscay. The prevailing winds are westerly so unless you get lucky you are head to wind and every 6 hours the tide turns against you which further slows progress. The leg to Studland was uneventful with mostly motor sailing. At Studland we anchored up and had supper on board and a few hours sleep before setting off at 11 pm to sail across Lyme bay and into Dartmouth.

Our first night sail went well with Harriet and myself on the first watch. Because we had to go south initially we could sail without the motor and it was a beautiful moonless night and a bit cold. Harriet had never night sailed before and I was very pleased and relieved that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wasn’t anxious at all. That leg to Dartmouth took about 18 hours and we arrived pretty tired. That didn’t stop a meal out followed by a bit of crew bonding which lubricated with rum and gin took us into the early hours and a day off next day.

From Dartmouth we called in at Salcombe, anchored off Plymouth, called in at Fowey where the picture above through the porthole was taken. Most of that was motor sailing with Lila’s engine performing reliably and the wind vane steering working well at a 20 degree angle to the wind. We struck lucky from Fowey to Falmouth with favourable wind and a great sail all the way into the estuary.

John had always planned to leave us at Falmouth and Glenn who was down to cross Biscay with us had to leave because of time pressures at home. That meant that we needed some more crew quickly who were experienced enough to help us cross Biscay.  At that stage I wondered if we should just turn around and get the boat to the Med via the French canals but Harriet didn’t seem much interested in that so we ensconced ourselves in a cafe with internet and made a list of potential crew from the Cruising Association’s web site. We must have e- mailed 20 people and followed up the next day with phone calls. This was Saturday and the available weather window was supposed to open the following Thursday.


More on how we progressed next time. John seemed to enjoy himself enough that he signed up to joining us again in Northern Spain.


Going into a night sky






Posted by: williekp | September 24, 2016

No news is not no news

If anyone is still out there following this, here is a catch up post that covers a lot of ground. When I got back from my Pacific Adventure, I stumbled across an opportunity to invest in a fledgling boat building company called Voyaging Yachts. That happened in Feb 2012. Over the last couple of years we have built two Wylo 35.5 steel gaff rigged cutters. Due to ill health, thankfully not mine, we are not moving the company forward. I have learned a lot about the process of building and owning a boat. The Wylo had never previously been a production boat. To own one, you had to find the designer Nick Skeates who lives on his boat, buy the plans and then make it yourself.Despite these obstacles there are around 40 Wylos out there cruising the oceans. Apart from the designer who has completed numerous circumnavigations the other most famous Wylo is Iron Bark owned by Trevor Robertson who built his in the Southern Hemisphere and went to Antarctica to overwinter it there in the ice as his maiden voyage.



The first time the sun came up on Iron Bark after the Antartic winter.

Trevor went on to sail up through the Caribbean when the ice released him and over wintered the next winter in Greenland. His most recent voyage was from Newfoundland to Freemantle in Australia single handed and non stop via the Cape of Good Hope. I have no plans to do anything quite as adventurous as Trevor but his exploits show what the Wylo is capable of in good hands.

I am hoping ,if all goes well , to sail from the UK across Biscay, down the coast of Spain and Portugal across to Maderia and then South to the Canaries before the end of October having left the Isle of Wight on 1 Sept 2016. Subsequent blogs in this series will document the adventure and keep me in touch I hope with friends and family. Should that part go well, the plan is to cross the Atlantic in Jan 2017, move through the Caribbean to Panama by Feb and transit the canal to the Pacific in March. Thence forth, pick up my previous track via the Gallapagos and the Marquesas through the Tuamotos to Tahiti and on via the Society Islands to Tonga, Fiji and ending up in New Zealand by end Nov 2017.

This is ambitious and there is a part of me that hesitates to say it out loud. I have found some great crew to help me and share the adventure although I am hoping to get better at picking crew because my success rate is not good enough yet as witnessed by some others.

Look out for additional posts and if you would like to be notified when a new post is uploaded, please put your e mail in and hit subscribe. Also feel free to leave me comments. I am hoping to get the first update out pretty soon.


Posted by: williekp | August 29, 2016

Here we go again after a long pause

You have to dream big so here we go.

Tomorrow my crew comes together in Cowes and we will set off to position for an Atlantic crossing in January 2017. I have no idea how all of this will work out. Sarah my wife is not up for crossing oceans and will join where possible. I am hopeful that as skipper I can pick suitable crew and create a good environment so that we all get what we need from the experience.

I will need crew with some offshore experience in Jan 2017 in the Canaries to help with the Atlantic puddle jump. Feel free to volunteer if you are that way inclined. I am planning to add a tracking facility to the site so that you can track progress if your desire is to view from afar. The ultimate aim if all goes well is to be in New Zealand by Oct/Nov 2017.






Wish us luck..IMG_1493

Watch this space.

Posted by: williekp | May 13, 2012

The Final Chapter of this Blog (for now anyhow)

Well we made it across over 3000 miles of deserted ocean. It took us 23 days and we travelled about 3300 miles through the water when you account for all the zig-zagging. This was something that I wanted to do and which I have thoroughly enjoyed. The picture below is for the record: me with the island of Nuka Hiva in the background. Fortunately it was my watch so I had the pleasure of sailing into the anchorage and dropping the hook.

I hope some of you will have noticed that I will have a bit less to drag around the squash court when I get back. We celebrated with a bottle of bubbly, then some wine and then we went ashore to celebrate some more. Despite all the frustrations, I am very grateful to the owners for allowing me to share in their adventure. It has been a unique experience. Nuka Hiva is a very beautiful island.

The anchorage in Nuka Hiva

I have decided, however, not to do the last leg to Tahiti and to fly there instead. If I ever come this way again it will be in my own boat.The call of home is strong and I hope to be having a pint in the squash club sometime from Wednesday onwards next week. Thanks to everyone who shared the adventure by reading my ramblings. Thanks in particular to all of you who commented on various of the entries. Everyone should dream of their adventure and have a go at it. I will have to start work now dreaming up my next one.

Till then thanks everyone.


Posted by: williekp | May 4, 2012

At last a proper fish

Well, I am pleased to report that at last I got things right. While putting out my line today, I noticed a tiny snag in the braid. It was just enough to weaken it, so it all came back in and I went back down the line until I found the weak point and cut it off there. Out it went and sure enough, just after dinner with the light fading, my reel started screaming again, even though it had the new heavier drag setting. I leapt up to see the last of the braid disappear and the monofilament backing race off after the fish. I inched up the drag with no effect. Still line flying out. I shouted for them to stop the boat which they were trying to do. I went through the gate on the reel to access maximum drag and just before that setting he fish stopped running. It s about half a kilometres away by now. I slowly gained line only for the fish to run again. I don’t know how long the fight was but eventually I saw the shape of the fish emerge from the depths. It was an enormous yellowfin tuna.


At this point as I got it to the surface, I had to give the rod to the skipper as I had to climb out onto the transom to try to gaff it and haul it on board. That was tricky but we succeeded and landed it. I estimate it at between 30 and 35 kilos. I found it hard to lift for the photo. Easily my best sea fish and pleasing after a few false starts. I. Still think the one the day before was half as big again. We have a lot of very prime tuna fresh for the next couple of days and frozen for the rest of the trip. Over to you Marigold.

Posted by: williekp | May 2, 2012

Progress on both the sailing and fishing fronts

We continue to limp along in light winds. Even the skipper must be becoming frustrated as surprise, surprise we left the pole up last night and no tempest or sea monster came along to do us damage. He started muttering about taking it in again tonight. I just stay out of it now, however, the ‘admiral’ who was on watch would have none of it and told him to leave things alone. So we still have the pole out at least until the admiral goes to bed. I am sure that in years to come, perhaps even weeks to come I will talk proudly about sailing across the pacific. However, right now with 570 miles to go to landfall and making just over 4 knots the sums tell me we are looking at another five and a half days. Factor on a bit more for zig zagging and a bit because sods law says we will arrive in darkness and have to go in circles for a few more hours and a week today is a likely step ashore. That will be plenty of long crossings for me. The only possibility of it happening again will be if I return in my own boat.

I have not been fishing recently. This is because the next time I hook something big, I plan to get it to the boat. This means I don’t fish when Marigold is out and about and I don’t fish when the sailing rig makes it hard to stop the boat quickly. This means that Marigold mk 3a has been having the field to herself for the last couple of days. Mk 3a modifications meant better hooks as the rubbish ones got straightened or rusted within days. I offered mine which were turned down and some reasonably respectable Mustad 5 o’s were fitted. Well Marigold got hit today with the boat hardly moving and sure enough came back empty handed with another straight hook. The same hook would deal with most fish it is possible to catch around the UK. So later today we moved to Marigold Mk 4, equipped with a strong circle hook and a size 8 o stainless. So far no further enquiries. If the sail plan changes, I will wet a line tomorrow. There are some very big fish out there and currently they are laughing at us.


Posted by: williekp | May 1, 2012

Final goodbye to Dad

Tuesday 1st May. My dad was cremated today in Belfast. May he rest in peace and my thanks to everyone who organised the funeral and who showed their respect for him by attending. My night watch coincided with the time of the funeral and although I couldn’t be there, I could quietly think about dad sitting under the stars and under a brilliant moon that made the calm ocean seem like daylight.

The photo is of Dad when we went fishing on Lough Neagh in Ulster on his 90th birthday. It was a lovely day out together before the party with the family and all his friends later that day. RIP.



Posted by: williekp | April 30, 2012

Frustration in the middle of a long passage


It is Monday 30th today. We have been at sea for 18 days now. The wind has died and sailing straight downwind with two poled out headsails we are making about 4 knots. This is acceptable but tedious. What is currently driving me up the pole (sic) is that each evening our skipper still insists in taking the poles in. This means we can’t point at the target and head off about 60 degrees in the wrong direction at an even slower speed with just one sail out. By doing this we can extend the passage almost indefinitely. My latest estimates are a further 8 days.  It is  a general issue is that every time we do anything with the boat or sails, the level of angst rises for no apparent reason. I have avoided getting involved at all a couple of times and the same thing happens.

It kind of reminds me of the Army regiment who, every day, have breakfast standing up. No chairs in the dining room at breakfast. This is  because they were ambushed in Zulu land in eighteen hundred and something while they were sitting to have breakfast. They are never going to get caught off guard like that again. I hope that wasn’t your regiment Mr Monson.  Our poor skipper had an unfortunate experience in another ocean with different weather and a different crew and hasn’t put it behind him. It is however his toy box so that is that. It does worry me though because the next piece to Tahiti is actually much more difficult with many reefs and narrow entrance passages to lagoons. I am concerned that the angst level will rise to unbearable heights and that we will just not enter the best places.



« Newer Posts - Older Posts »