Anthony spent last night with his girlfriend, and so far had not appeared. I had taken the dinghy to pick him up from Chichester at the agreed time, but I had returned to Maya alone.
We carried on with our final preparations. Mike had almost decided to leave without him when we spotted a motor boat heading our way, with a sheepish but happy looking Anthony standing in the bows.
With the crew complete and the atmosphere tense we started the engine and cast off.
Andy went to lower the centre-plate before we hoisted sail. It was jammed No matter what we tried we couldn't free it. That might cause problems crossing an ocean!
Mike beached the boat so that we could try to fix it. The tide gradually went out leaving Maya tilted sharply, resting on her port float. We dug under the hull and discovered the centre-plate was held solid by mud from a previous grounding.
As darkness fell we finished clearing the mud, and then settled down for the night.
Tomorrow will be the day we start our trip to the Caribbean.
To get her afloat then we needed to put an anchor out astern, and pull her backwards off the beach. Placing the anchor would have been simple when the tide was out. An easy walk and positioning by hand in the sand. Unfortunately none of us thought of that when the tide was out.
So there I am, rowing an inflatable dinghy, never the easiest things to row, with an anchor as a passenger. As I row further away from the boat more rope and chain is let out, making rowing even harder. When the people NOT rowing finally decide I have gone far enough I have to struggle to drop the anchor overboard before the current takes me out of position. Then I row myself back and help hoist the dinghy onboard and secure it to the netting.
The rest is easy. Maya slides into position, the engine is started and we are off. The centre-plate is successfully lowered and as we enter the English Channel the sails are hoisted and the engine stopped. We are on our way.
We may call in at Falmouth, but our first proper stop is expected to be Portimao on the south coast of Portugal, about 1,000 miles away.
We have settled into a pattern of 4 hour daytime and 2 hour nighttime watches. So far we all seem to getting along well.
There is unlikely to be much to report, so over the next few days I will tell you something about the crew, myself, and Maya.
This afternoon my shipmates and I were briefly entertained by a large school of playful dolphins.
Who are my shipmates?
Mike is a tall, long-haired, weather beaten American, and the owner and captain of Maya, Quick to anger and just as quick to forget. His plan is to charter Maya in the Caribbean.
He used to work for the PX, the USA equivalent of the NAAFI, where he spent some time in Vietnam. Whilst there he met a Vietnamese girl who has since become his wife. She is staying with Mike’s family in America while we move the boat. Mike toured Europe on a motor bike and spent time in the Philippines where he became friends with Anthony.
Anthony is an ex British Army cavalry officer. That shows in the way he stands, looks and talks. After the Philippines he worked as an office manager, but gave that up when invited to come on this trip. He is engaged to a French lady, the one who delayed his return on the day we left.
Andy is a civil engineer and sailing enthusiast complete with nautical whiskers. He is having a slightly smaller version of Maya built in the boatyard where Maya was built. Like Maya, construction was behind schedule, so when Mike suggested he join the crew he jumped at the chance. Hopefully when he gets back to England his own boat will be finished and he can sail some more.
Keith worked in his Father's pharmacy which is where he met Mike. I think there was a conversation during which Keith said he wished he was sailing away, and Mike invited him to join.
Me. I answered an advert in the 'crew wanted' section of a yachting magazine! More of me tomorrow.
At last the weather forecast is favourable
It is calmer today and the wind is now favourable, but it is raining!
There were more dolphins playing around the boat today, and a French airforce plane decided we were worth investigation. It flew low when it saw us then turned round and came back for another look.
Why was I looking at the crew wanted adverts?
I was always fascinated by sea stories, fact or fiction. I loved to read and hear about the great solo sailors, Joshua Slocum, Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston.
When I got my first real job and started to earn some money I saved up and booked a two week sailing course on the south coast.
I got seasick!!
Fortunately it passed and I loved sailing as much as I hoped. That is when I discovered the crew wanted adverts in boating magazines. I used to know when the magazines were published and look at them in the newsagents on Liverpool Street station. If there was an interesting looking advert I would buy the magazine and reply.
Many wanted to charge significant amounts to take you on board, but one did look interesting. Crew wanted on a shared expenses basis.
I took some holiday and met the owner in Northern Ireland from where we sailed his boat across the Irish sea to England via the Isle of Man. It didn’t go smoothly and a few weeks later he wrote to say he was postponing for at least a year. I carried on looking.
In retrospect the first time I met Mike was odd. He and his wife were staying in a slightly run down Earls Court hotel. They were both dressed casually and reclined on the bed. I was dressed in a three piece suit, armed with a briefcase and rolled umbrella and perched on the only chair in the room. I don’t remember what we discussed, but I guess I may have been the only person who answered because I was invited to join there and then.
On the basis of that one brief meeting, without having seen the boat or met the rest of the crew, I went into the office the next day and resigned.
Four weeks later my dad and uncle rowed me out to join Maya in Chichester Harbour.
About eighty miles off the coast of Spain now. Highlight of today, we saw another ship.
I can fully understand the french airforce jet’s antics yesterday, Maya is a beautiful boat.
She is a 40 foot long racing trimaran with bright orange hulls under a Bermudan rig. Under full sail she slices through the water as if it were air.
Mike had her built at a yard near Berwick-on-Tweed because he loved the work of the designer based there. Delivery was over three months behind schedule and her sea trials were the voyage down to Chichester where I joined her. A number of issues were discovered which we spent the days before we set off putting right.
The two outer hulls are purely for storage, not really accessible at sea.
Stretched between the hulls and the spars joining them together is netting. Ideal for sleeping on in hot weather, ideal for caribbean charters. Also where the dinghies and dismantled bicycle are stored when underway.
All the accommodation is in the central hull. There is a rear cabin which is Mikes realm – do not enter here!
The main cabin contains the galley, table, seating, and bunks. Forward of that are the heads (toilet to the landlubbers) and beyond that more storage including sail storage.
The accommodation is sparse, but adequate. There are fresh water tanks, but the heads flush with sea water and most of the washing is done in buckets of sea water. Cutlery has a nasty habit of hiding in the washing-up bucket and being thrown overboard never to be seen again.
Another school of dolphins this morning. They stayed around for about 15 or 20 minutes this time.
We have crossed the bay of biscay and are now passing down the coast of Spain/Portugal with about 350 miles left to go.
Last night the cooker broke half way through cooking the meal so we had to make do with cheese and crackers. The stew was left sitting on the cooker. At about 4am, just as Anthony was coming off watch, we went over a larger than usual wave and the cooker fell over. The cooker just missed Anthony , but the stew landed in his lap,
At least the cooker is working again now.
It was clear and warm when I did my 2am till 4am watch last night.
It has been a lovely day too, except we are now becalmed, so who knows when we will arrive.
We have actually seen land, the first in 5 days. Some of the islands off Portugal, which gives us about 200 miles to go.
We have spent most of today sunbathing in the nets, reading and playing cards, interspersed with the occasional can of lager, which we are now coming to the end of.
We don’t know as yet how long we are staying in Portimao for, but it could be two weeks or more. We might have a few few days away from the boat and see some of the countryside.
Lovely sunrise today and the wind came back, but it is from the wrong direction so there is still no knowing when we will arrive.
Also, it is very rough today which is no fun. All you can do is wedge yourself into a corner or in your bunk.
We can’t see it but we must still be close to land because a poor exhausted little starling came to rest on our netting for a while. Still about 200 miles to go.
Happy Birthday Mum. Sorry there was no card. I was going to send one from Falmouth, but we didn’t stop. If I can find out what Birthday is in Portuguese I’ll send you a card from there, otherwise I will have to Improvise.
Earlier today we were all getting a bit fed-up. We didn’t seem to have made much progress in the last few days, but then at about 3:15 this afternoon we finally rounded the South-West and South points of Portugal which meant about 25 miles to go, but not enough daylight to go the whole way. We would have to anchor in the bay, then move into the river in the morning.
At 7pm that is what we did – DROPPED ANCHOR!!