America’s Cup – bring it home Mr Ben Ainslie


A set of completely unplanned circumstances meant all our ‘ducks were in a row’, ready to quack for a bloody brilliant day.
We got to Bermuda. The America’s Cup was about to start on Friday. We hadn’t planned this. Fab, let’s get some tickets for Saturday and go as gang with a couple of other boat crews. Americans supporting Oracle but you can’t have everything!
Friday’s schedule was cancelled because of high winds meaning the opening ceremony and the start of racing was pushed back to Saturday. So we’d get to see the start of racing, the red bull sky divers, a Wyclef Jean concert, (he’s a rapper and was surprisingly good!) and have the opening ceremony thrown in for good measure. Plus a whole day in the village with big screens, displays and information from the 6 competing teams, great access to the waterfront, with the finish line just in front of everybody.
Dave and I, normally unswayed by marketing and pizazz, even bought T shirts to support the British Team. Glad, we did, but more about that later.
There were 6 races, one after another. All head to heads with Mr Ainslie and his boys on Land Rover BAR racing against Artemis from Sweden and later SoftBank from Japan. Artemis appeared to have been the form team in practice races but Ben and the boys showed then a clean pair of heels although the Swedes were pressing them down the home straight. Our strategy was to watch most of the race on the big screen then dash about 100m to the water front to see the finish. Viewing live was great with lots of space and watching on the screen showed all the close up action plus fancy graphics helped me understand what was going on.
The second race for the Brits was not so successful as the Japanese boat was tearing towards the start line, with much greater speed. The Brit boat tried to hold its line but the boats collided and BAR were penalised for not getting out of the way. The bigger penalty was a damaged boat so I guess the shore team had a pretty busy night last night repairing the carbon fibre hole.
The boats are remarkable to watch, particularly the speeds they reach and how on the edge they constantly appear. It’s not sailing as we know it by any stretch of the imagination. You could argue it’s not even about water because the concept is to lift the boat out of the water so it appears to be flying with the minimum of contact with the sea.
After the high octane excitement of sailing and collisions, we watched the concert and the Red Bull Sky Divers who came in to land so quickly you could hear the crowd unanimously take a sharp intake of breath. One guy landed on a 40 -50 foot pontoon just in front of the crowd. It was mind blowing at such speeds.
The final piece for the day was the opening ceremony. Who would you like to stand next to and chat to from the whole crowd, corporate guests, film stars like Michael Douglas or maybe one of the boat crew to watch the proceedings? How about Ben Ainslie and his wife? That’s who we got or looking at it the other way, that’s what they got!
We were stood in the thick of the crowd a little way from the stage, close to a cordoned off area in front of the av technical bods. The village volunteers used a rope right next to us to establish a clear corridor so there was a route through the crowd to access this cordoned area. All the Boat crews started arriving down this thoroughfare to high fives and applause and congregated in holding area for the start of proceedings. Who ended up standing next to us……Ben and his wife.
We had a little chat and they were impressed we’d sailed from England. Or so they said. She was lovely and chatty and I think he probably wanted to get the ceremony over with and get back to their accommodation in preparation for the following days racing. He’s the face of BAR Land Rover so people want to meet him, have photos taken, autographs signed etc. It’s a big responsibility.
So those t shirts came in useful. What a gobsmackingly brilliant day.

America’s Cup – Bermuda

6 days to Bermuda. Arrived safely after some very fast sailing and also some dull dull motoring.

Off to the America’s Cup tomorrow.

Looking forward to some amazing sailing.

Towards Bermuda

190 miles to Bermuda. After two stonking days where we covered over 150 miles each day, the wind died at 1.30 this morning. The resulting sail flappage and ghostly movement gave us two options. Drift about at 2 knots or fire up the engine. The engine has now been on for 9 hours and the wind is still hiding although the sun shines and the sea is flat.

The upside of life under engine is the batteries get a full charge and there’s no boat heeling meaning it’s level down below so a few domestic chores are easier to tick off. The downside has to be the noise and heat both by products from the combustion engine. Fingers crossed the wind will fill in the not too distant future and we can resume sailing again. It’s been a while since we motored anywhere and anyone who sails will I believe be empathetic with that little feeling of relief as the engine is turned off and the intrusive mechanical noise disappears.

The welcoming drink of choice in Bermuda is apparently the ‘dark and stormy’. It’s not a beverage I’m familiar with. Martin who we met in Barbados has recommended several places to sample this offering which is I believe is a dark rum and ginger beer combination. We’re always grateful for local tips on where to hang out or get a top deal. Two other boats, Detour and Calico Skies, who we met in St Martin, left 30 hours before us to head up to Bermuda. Both have visited Bermuda before and mentioned the dark and stormy as a good sundowner. We look forward to seeing them safely anchored in St George’s.

Bermuda should offer a Britishness which we will look forward to. We are lead to believe the economics of buying anything are startling and perhaps not so welcoming. We provisioned in St Martin for 3 weeks with the aim of keeping any purchases on Bermuda to a minimum.

Our guide book tells us the island has pink buses and no household is allowed to own more than one car without special dispensation. All houses must have rainwater catching capacity. ( I knew this already from listening to a world service podcast documentary a couple of of months ago.). Cruise ships dock almost every day pouring their cargo of never ending holidaymakers onto the quayside and streets to support the main industry, tourism. Finance is equally important to the island. I’m curious. Do the bankers wear Bermuda shorts to work? And knee length white socks? My questions will be answered soon.

So it’s good bye for now to the Caribbean. We arrived in Barbados at the end of January and have visited 16 islands as we’ve worked our way up the chain. It already feels a little cooler starting to travel north. I dug out a lightweight pair of tracky bottoms and a thin fleece for night watch. It’s a been a while since such clothes have been needed.

Influential Peacocks

Here’s the offer. Day off school. Post-mortem on a peacock. In my mind as a 13 year old that seemed so much more exciting than a biology class about the reproduction of plants followed by double German.
The Pearson’s had peacocks. They were our next door neighbours. Next door in the sense that they lived in the next house on the same side of the road as us. The fact that there was a two mile gap in between the properties was irrelevant.
One of their male peacocks had died unexpectedly. The challenge was to find out why. First job, pluck the bird, trying to maintain the majesty of the feathers so they could be used for other creative exploits in the future. Time consuming but successful.
Then cut the bird open looking out for anything unusual. Lead shot. There were small lead weights in the bird’s stomach, which must have been discarded or lost by fishermen on the Tyne only to be ingested by the unfortunate bird. Bingo, an investigation that Gregory House would have been proud of. Diagnosis lead poisoning.
Prior to the death of this particular peacock, there’d been the peacock stuck in the tree incident. The peacock had been there for a couple of days and was showing no inclination whatsoever to return to ground level and go about its daily business. How then to get the peacock out of the tree? Of course. You invite the retained fire brigade from Bellingham to drive out on a Tuesday night and train their hoses gently on said bird as part of their weekly meet. Frank Matt, Ronnie Bickerton and crew turned up in the state owned fire engine.
Benny Hill would have proud of the debacle that followed. The late 1970’s permitted such jollity and madness without a blink of the eye and corporate headquarters knew nothing of such exploits. Hoses were connected to the tanks of the tender, firemen were in position and just as the valves are about to be opened, the bird launches itself out of the tree and takes off across the northumberland countryside followed by a posse of firemen shouting and swearing at the cumbersome bird.
Why am I sharing these fond memories? Well they are just a couple of many that flavoured my childhood favourably knowing and spending time with the Pearson’s. Mary was a big influence on me. She was a bit off the wall and different, being very much her own person, she didn’t tolerate fools gladly and liked an adventure. She was also amazingly talented and creative and could turn her hand to most things…. Upholstery, Animal Husbandry, Costume design and making for the amateur dramatic society, shed building, peacock post-mortems, catering, story telling, the list goes on. As a kid, I spent many hours in Mary’s company and there was always an adventure to be had or a tale to be told. Sadly the adventures came to an end this weekend.
I will sorely miss my trips to Carriteth, arriving sometimes on foot, by bike, vehicle or even by canoe once. The door was always open. The kettle was always on. The chickens may have been in the kitchen but the welcome was always genuine, warm and hearty.

Today we head back out to sea for a few days. Bermuda is our next planned destination at 900 miles ish in the far distance. Grace is about 80% ready to depart. Fuel and water top ups required. Dinghy and outboard need stowing. A home needs to be found for the general detritus lying around in the cabin. Here’s to fair winds and good progress. Sorry no photos… the internet is pants!


IMG_2375I was 10 when I got my pet dog. He was 6 weeks old, a true geordie mongrel from the cat and dog shelter in Newcastle. The most playful of the litter, I gathered him up into my arms and we went to a cafe to celebrate my canine birthday gift where he promptly threw up and we departed forthwith.

He was supposed to be called Bilbo but my Bro who was about 2 at the time couldn’t say puppy, but could say Muff or Muffy. The name stuck. No overtones of naughtiness in the name at all if that is where your mind has taken you.

What Muff gave me was an excuse to explore; the woods, the fells, the river bank, the tracks and lanes around where we lived in rural northumberland. I’d walk out one day, then go a bit further the next as i wanted to know was beyond that fence or steam. It’s purely supposition on my part in thinking this could have been the start of my desire to explore and have a bit of an adventure.

Boat life is our current adventure of choice and we’re getting closer to two longer sea passages again, the first from St Martin to Bermuda, then from Bermuda to Maine. We are on St Barts, about 20 miles south of St Martin. The guide book says even rich French and Americans tourists think it’s expensive here and I can vouch for that. We came here from Barbuda which is the polar opposite. No restaurants, no luxury goods just a few boys sat by the dinghy dock at 10am chewing the fat.  (And drinking the rum). The photos above are of the anchorage. It was mostly blue. And stunningly quiet.

We always enjoy hearing about the adventures of our friends and family too. Becca and Chris are off in their camper van to Europe for a few weeks, Barbara and Julian are en route to the Med in their boat, spying pilot whales as they go, Al and Breezy are off to Borneo and Pete is getting his boat ready for a summer birthday trip around Scotland.

We will get another dog one day. Just not really the right time for us now.