South America

It appears the prerequisites of training in the military here in Shelter Bay, Panama are….

  • The ability to play a trumpet / bugle with gusto at all hours of the day and night
  • To be able to respond loudly in unison to orders
  • Sing with a similarly loud shouty voice what sound like patriotic songs


Of course, this may indeed be exactly the same as the British or Polish or Nigerian, etc, etc, as I know very little, nay nothing, about military training. I thought the military were supposed to sneak up quietly and surprise the enemy. Isn’t that what camouflage clothing is designed for? Sneaking with a bugle seems a little contradictory.


I tuned into the military soundtrack as we’re anchored off a training establishment waiting for our transit date through the canal. The Pacific is but 36 miles away.


Which means Jamaica is a memory after five mostly uneventful days at sea, apart from the flaky autopilot which flaked again.  No crumbliest, flakiest chocolate, just shouting in the middle of the night to raise the sleeping crew then 30 frantic minutes to diagnose, plan, act then breathe.


Most folk use an agent to aid and oil the paperwork and associated necessities of getting a transit. We are part way through the process but have chosen to sort things ourselves. The spondoolies will stay in our pockets for a little work ourselves.


Grace has been measured, we wait for our payment to land in the predetermined bank account and then we get a day and time. Well days actually. South bound transits depart mid afternoon. The protocol seems to be go through the first set of locks, tie to a mooring ball in the Gatun Lakes then complete the journey the following day, through the second set of locks, under the Bridge of the Americas and officially into the Pacific.


Colon is the land of big ships, of which there are many. Dave has actually gone through the canal as  a line handler the last couple of days on a friend’s catamaran …(a) to help out someone else and (b) to see what it’s like before going through ourselves. I stayed back to get Grace officially  measured and to fill in some paperwork.






We have turned our satellite phone back on which means that the tracking page on this website is working again. You can easily stalk us, should you choose, as we    make progress through the canal, out into the Pacific and west towards New Zealand, our original aspiration when we set off from the UK back in June 2016. The red dot 🔴is a slow mover. It’ll likely take us 25 to 30 days to get from Panama to the Marquesas Archipelago. But more of that later. Stand by.

Tippy Tappying

We’ve met folk of all nationalities who work from their boats to contribute to their individual ship’s biscuit fund. We indeed still do bits and pieces for Unique Solutions, our UK business.

There are people who are striving to fund their travels through video blogging. A tiny tiny handful of crews are pretty successful ($10,000 an episode I’ve read) at this but we’re talking an incredibly small proportion. And it seems to me, the more successful your vlog, there’s more work required to ‘feed the beast’ and keep it going. And going and going every week with something new and interesting to say.

Our staring position was always to do less not more.

My new German friend Olaf works remotely as a software engineer. He and his wife have been boat-based for 8 years. I hadn’t seen him all day so I asked him if he’d been ‘tippy tappying’ away on his computer. His response to this was to laugh like a drain in uncontrollable glee.

I’m not sure if tippy tappying translates into something different in German. Doesn’t matter, seeing him laugh like that made my day.

I mentioned this conversation to a friend in the UK. The response….They will have a word for it. It will have at least 8 syllables and 32 letters.  That’s why all German books are in Landscape.Tippenzietappenschudenfreitche. That made me laugh too.

We are in Jamaica, planning to depart for Panama on Wednesday. The winds and the seas in the western Caribbean can be a bit ‘dizzy rascal’ so we’re waiting for a smoother, mellower ‘rat pack’ forecast.

In the meantime, Dave has made some modifications to the steering / autopilot system. I’ve replaced the fraying stitching on the head sail. Jerk chicken has featured in our diet. It’s about a year since we last had some and my lips protested and demanded cold liquid prompto. It’s got a lip swelling kick. But worth persisting as it is pretty darned tasty too.


One of my enduring worries when I flirted more vigorously with the world of work, was over promising then under delivering. Not providing or doing what you say frays the end of my sensibilities.

Our attempted fridge / freezer repairs on Long Island flirted with this category. People committed. Then retracted. The only sensible option appeared to be an about turn, quick march and present arms back to Hi De Hi world, aka George Town.

Frustrating though this was, we pulled onto the dock at 7.30am awaiting an appointment with fridge man at 8.00am only for him to arrive at 7.45am. The signs were good. As Dave had suspected, gas was non existent in the system. One of the joints was a smidgeon loose allowing a tiny leak. No gas = no cold. Fridge man had gas. This was good news.

Our other gremlin, water in one of the fuel tanks has hopefully been sorted with the poor man’s / Blue Peter* version of fuel polishing. A stick, a pump, some tube and empty containers. Just needed some sticky back plastic. Plus a Good Samaritan called Ross who came to lend a hand. I went for a little paddle board while the pumping took place. He volunteered!

(* you’d need to be a child watching tv in the ‘70’s in the UK to happily recall Blue Peter)

Our last afternoon / evening on Long Island provided us with a weeny teeny bit of vicarious fame. The story starts years ago. Many years ago. Dave and I planned to bugger off and do some sailing, Miv was going to build a house, Linn wanted to make a film. All parties here were asked on many occasions, when are you going, when’s it happening, have you finished …blah blah, yada yada. These things take time.

Well Miv lives in his house, Dave and I will have been floatin’ for 4 years this June and Linn won a BATFA for being one of two producers for their film Bait. The WiFi at the beach bar provided the means as we followed the award ceremony online. Our immediate social circle celebrated as the winners were announced. As mentioned already, we happily accepted the fame vicariously. Bloody well done. The film, shot in black and white, tells the tale of a changing Cornish fishing community. I believe its doing the rounds in cinemas large and small. Go see it. It won a shiny gong for our buddy Linn.

Back from celluloid to sails, we plan to leave Friday from The Bahamas to head towards Jamaica and Panama. Weather will dictate how far we go in one hit. It’s now time to go and find WiFi to download more podcasts for the passage.












Hi De Hi

The Adult Holiday Camp. I can report it’s alive and well here in George Town, Exumas.

The day starts at 8am with the ‘Hi-Di-Hi’ call to arms shepherding in the daily activities on the VHF. Days can be filled with such offerings as yoga, boaty talks, dominos, aqua aerobics and the Men’s Huddle or the Women’s Bible study group, which I think are essentially the same thing but divided by chromosomes. Why men and women can’t do God together who knows?

We managed quite easily to fill our days without venturing towards the organised activities. There are trails to walk. And sea to swim in. We also spent a couple of days in the company of Pete Goss and his fab wife Tracey. He’s a proper proper sailer and adventurer (google him) and a genuinely lovely bloke. He has tales to tell in a wholly appropriate understated way. Suited me and Dave just fine

And we now have more horses. 😀 Not the four legged variety but the tiny ones that live inside an outboard engine. I’ve been coveting these for a while, years in fact.

We bumped into some folk on a beach who had a brand spanking new 25 horse power outboard. I commented on it and found out they’d sold their old 15 horses to another couple who now had 9.8 horses to sell. Just right for us. That’s 5.8 more horses than we had previously. The dinghy now gets up on the plane with both of us in it and whizzes across the water. This makes me very happy. We can head out to snorkelling spots which are further away plus have more choices to where we choose to anchor.

We were planning on leaving Long Island and heading down towards Jamaica and Panama early this coming week. The winds look good. But we have a fridge gremlin. The fridge seemed to be working harder than normal but we thought it was okay. Us foolish peeps. It’s now working like a proverbial Trojan but with not much associated coldness. So all our frozen food is distributed in other people freezers. Ricky is coming to look at it on Monday morning. Kermit wasn’t available. That’s his name, honest.

Plus we discovered we have some water in one of our diesel tanks. We imagine we must have picked up some dirty fuel somewhere along the trip. We haven’t used this tank for a while. We swapped on to it as the other tank was getting pretty low. The engine ran fine for five minutes then cut out. I was taking the anchor up at the time. Back down it went and the investigations began. Thankfully we were in a large sandy bay and not motoring through a narrow coral channel when it happened. Oh well. Small mercies.

Wow, it’s the first of February today. I’m hoping Ricky can work some fridge magic so we can get on our way.








Pigs and fronts

I’ve been a bit caught up with weather fronts rolling through stopping our push south. ‘Grumpy cow’ nudges into the daylight which in truth is bloody ridiculous as we are in the frigging Bahamas. My aspiration is not to turn into Elton John who once called hotel reception to complain about the wind and requested that the management turn it down a bit.

We had a lovely relaxing week with Jenness and Patti. Pigs living on a beach challenges my view of normality. But they seemed to be in good shape and most people who visited while we were there turned up with vegetable scraps which were devoured with intent. The well known Olympic swimming race, the 100m doggy paddle can now be renamed the 100m piggy paddle. These babies were the water equivalent to the colloquial saying ‘pigs in sh*t’.

Our guests flew out from Black Point Settlement rather than Staniel Cay, changing their flights after we met Ester, who along with Lorraine and Ida seem to run the whole village shebang. Ester’s roles included Flamingo Air representative, Bahamas Telecom helper, shop assistant, pizza influencer, T-shirt recommender, accommodation booker. speed boat finder etc etc. She was a handy person to know as the flight change was necessitated by another front rolling in and us not really wanting to move anchorages.

We’re now off Lee Stocking Island, as another front passes over. Yes, it’s Elton John windy again today. Today being Saturday. The next front will arrive Wednesday. Getting here, the water was in boating terms, very skinny. When we first stared sailing in the UK, we wouldn’t anchor in less than 4 metres. We were worried about hitting the bottom. Grace draws 2 meters. On our trip down here we were flying long at 6.7 knots with just 0.8 metres under the keel at one point. A little clenchy.

We will head to what has been described to us as ‘the adult holiday club’ early next week. Georgetown in the Exumas is apparently a big hub for social activities. Shouts go out on the radio in the morning for partakers of yoga and volleyball and beach bbq’s and goodness knows what else. I will report back having assessed what’s on offer. But more importantly we can buy some vegetables which (other than 2 avocados) I last bought in Florida three weeks ago.



Phew! Made it. We dropped anchor on 3rd January, this fresh decade, just to the east of Thunderball Grotto, Staniel Cay in the Exumas. Our friends flight didn’t arrive until 4.30pm so we had a good five hours to spare to be frivolous and prepare for their arrival. Plenty.

I don’t doubt they were looking at Grace’s previous locations on the US coast and thinking, they’re never going to make it. They undoubtedly mused what are our options for accommodation if these tardy mariners don’t turn up?

The quietly manic push to get to Staniel Cay played out favourably and we came out ahead. Just. Days rolled with early starts and nights at sea. We had a fast boisterous crossing of the Gulf Stream. We squeezed in overnight stops at Manjack in the Abacos and Half Moon Bay on Little San Salvador. The Manjack stop coincided with New Years Eve and a gathering of friends at a bonfire on the beach.

The Half Moon Bay stop was restful and quiet. We did set the alarm for 4am the next day to get us to Sean Connery’s previous haunt in mid morning. All tickety boo.

Patti and Jenness arrived full of vim and vigour. They’d left a chilly New Hampshire and their beloved dogs for a week away in warmer climes. It’s great to have them on board, to share our home in a blue blue place.

Yesterday we snorkelled, meandered the metropolis that is Staniel Cay, watched the nurse sharks being fed dinner as a bunch of fishermen cleaned their catch and learnt a new card game, 3-13.

The plan over the next week is to explore a little of the Exumas. It’s pretty windy just now as a cold front goes over us. Dave was up at 5am checking on stuff and making sure the anchor was solid. I supported him admirably from a horizontal position in bed.


It’s called the Sunshine State, and maybe it is in July and August, but here on 27th December it’s hooning it down good time. Our small armada, two boats, the Windora’s starring Phil and Linda, plus us on Grace eventually escaped Bluffton, passed through St Augustine and Titusville and dropped anchor in the Cape Canaveral vicinity.

Once again, we boat refugees were adopted into an American home for tea and medals and a full on Christmas Celebration. A collaborative effort delivered a lunch spectacular for 14 people. Dave made his infamous 4 hour gravy which proved a hit all round. Chris’s house became the focal point for four days as errands were run, boats were mended and improved and day trips were embarked on.

My day trip was to the Magic Kingdom. I believe a good two thirds of the American population descended on Disneyland on Christmas Eve. The queues and general human throng was immense and initially disconcerting. But Disney is Disney and they do their day job very well. I’d challenge even the most cynical of folks not to crack a smile as the Christmas parade goes past or the CGI Monsters Inc show interacts ingeniously with the audience. You’re never too old to go and enjoy the magic. Just maybe go on a quiet Wednesday in November, not Christmas Eve. Oh, and start saving now. Your cash will magically disappear.

Dave chose not to make the trip, instead staying to install a new alternator on the boat. For you technical bods, this hulk delivers 75 amps at tick over. If this means nothing to you, that’s cool, all you need to understand is it makes Dave very happy.

Back to the weather, it’s been darn right difficult and uncooperative as we look for a window to cross the Gulf Stream to get to the Bahamas.  And then down to the Exumas to meet friends there. But a window is promised on Monday so we are lining up to take full advantage. Meanwhile it’s still pouring, Dave is moist and I’m hiding writing this missive. (Maybe I should write something akin to War and Peace to stay out of the rain)







And lift…..then lower

There’s a bunch of protagonists. The cast’s ages range from about 50 ish to 70 ish. Although essentially they are all still 12 to 14 year old boys in their general demeanour and outlook. There’s a project afoot and they’re all definitely up for it.

There’s the main protagonist, “Na, na, you wanna do it like this”. He’s usually right but not always. The quiet considered counterpart, constantly troubleshooting sees occasional critical flaws and glitches in the plan. Valuable essential stuff. But unbridled confidence certainly helps with the momentum of the job.

There’s the “I’ll survive anything” chap who insists on standing directly under a suspended heavy object, with a cheek to cheek grin on his face. No matter how many times moving is suggested, cajoled, demanded, seconds later he’s back in exactly the same place. There’s dungarees boy, with his years of experience working around machinery. If there’s a joke to me made, he’s your man.

All in all there are about 10 characters to help lift the rotting wooden mast out of a sail boat using an outrigger on a moored fishing boat as the fixed high point.

Dave shimmies up the outrigger and fixes a strong point with pullies and lines. The wooden mast is hauled up eventually using the anchor windlass but because it’s swollen due to the rot in the mast foot, it’s not straightforward and severe jiggling, forcing and leverage is required. The pivot point is not quite right so the mast hangs severely to the stern narrowly avoiding a dip in the drink.

But out the mast comes, to be laid across a skiff and driven to the public jetty where it is transferred onto a couple of trolleys and walked the quarter mile up the main road to its ‘fixing’ place.

A few days later, a new section of fresh wood has been scarfed into the mast foot, the Bluffton Christmas Parade has happened, two birthdays have passed and the crew reassemble to put the mast back in to its natural environment.

Lessons were learnt from round one so restepping was much more straightforward with less hairy moments. All done by 10.15 in the morning.

Which explains why we’ve been in Bluffton South Carolina for around two weeks. I’ve fallen in love with the south. The oaks trees, the Spanish moss, the porches with rocking chairs and late night outdoor fires where 12 year olds can reminisce, its a lovely spot.

Ancient Mariner

When Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner goes a bit loopy, one of the lines of his poem, if I recall correctly  is something like…’Water water everywhere yet not a drop to drink”. Well Mr Coleridge, this is no longer the case on the good ship Grace. Some factual revision is needed in your epic poem.

Correctly assembling a low and high-pressure pump, a selection of valves and pipes, some standard filters and a membrane means through a reverse osmosis process, we can make drinking water from sea water. Friends who already have such trickery suggest being able to make water is a game changer in terms of the independence it provides. We were both pretty excited to taste salt free water for the first time as the dave and helen assembled machine (mostly dave) chugged into action with only a modicum of initial leaks.

It’s taken more than a couple of weeks to work out where all the individual components would live, installing these elements, followed by some tidy cabinetry to hide all the inner workings of this poetry challenging assembly. I don’t recall exactly how many trips we had going back and forward to the hardware store. How was it that after spending a whole day pulling together a through and definitive list of different joints and valves and pipes, on double checking the list the following day, we discover day one’s list is inaccurate and needs amending. How? Why?

Jobs such as this make me feel like I might end up living in boatyard forever as time stretches out with no immediate end in sight. Sadly a single guy did die on his boat when we were in the yard. A whole array of emergency services with flashing lights turned up but nothing could be done.

It’s not really a time to divert attention from what’s going on. We happened to be installing a new life raft. Dave was balanced on two planks which themselves were balanced between the boat and the dock. He was slowly manoeuvring the heavy load up the planks into its cradle.

A boat went past, swell rode up and one of the planks dislodged. How Dave managed to cling onto the delicately remaining dancing plank with the raft,  I’ll never know but cling on he did. No resounding splash ensued. No attention was drawn. embarrassment avoided. No story to tell…just.

We are currently 7 miles from the inlet into Beaufort South Carolina. It’s 4.51am. Dave is asleep. We’re motoring as the wind has disappeared. Unlike last night on the passage down where we had sustained wind between 25 and 35 knots and a rather damp cockpit at times. Very much water water everywhere.

Road trip

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to various bits of the world, some of which are renowned for their bugs. However, the North Carolina mosquito takes the biscuit in bug prizes. Dave and I were bitten, bleeding and flapping like mad fruit loops after a seriously mis-judged detour into a marshy area at Cape Lookout. Never again.

Mentally and physically scarred, we headed to the hills in Brevard, still in North Carolina but almost an 8 hour drive away. We were both looking really forward to the spending time with the family from Piper, a boat we met in the Bahamas this winter. The trip healed the wounds and we have had a fabulous time.

We had a full on stay including waterfall walks in the rain, experiencing Halloween on Maple Street, a day’s climbing with everyone, then Dave and Tripp did a 460’ multi pitch route plus a mass bike ride to a couple of breweries, which seem pretty common here, for someone’s birthday.

It was fun just to hang out with the family, kicking a football in the garden, playing cards and checking out town.

It’s Sunday night here and we are undecided as to whether to head back to boat world tomorrow or have another day here. There’s loads to do and see here. It’s been really relaxed and we’ve experienced some great hospitality. Thanks Piper.