After extensive sailing in home waters Kris, David and ‘Taipan’ crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, crossed the Atlantic and headed up the Eastern Seaboard of the US. They sailed to Europe via Bermuda and the Azores. They are heading west and will eventually sail home across the Pacific to complete their circumnavigation.
I met David and Kris in Norway in 2017 and they spent some of the winter of 2017-18 in Ipswich, close to my home.
James Robinson (Yacht Master Ocean & YM Instructor) and me joined ‘Taipan’ and her crew in Lanzarote on the 21st February for their third Atlantic crossing.
‘Taipan’ is a Kaufman 49, heavily built in Taiwan in 1987. David and Kris have owned her since 2001.
Here is the link to follow their blog.
Our Track across the Atlantic … March 2019
MY DIARY OF THE VOYAGE
February 23rd1840 GMT
We are in Gran Canaria after an overnight sail from Lanzarote. There was very little wind and ‘Taipan’ lumbered across the 100 nautical miles, motoring all the way, in moderate visibility. She’s probably got quite a dirty bottom.
It was quite warm for the overnight passage.
James and me had a good flight from Stansted Airport to Lanzarote on the 21st. We so nearly cocked it up by flying to the wrong place. Kris and David were about to depart for Gran Canaria where they expected us to fly in to but somehow a lapse in communication between the two James’s had us fly to Lanzarote.
We had one night on board after the flight from the UK before we departed Puerto Calero, Lanzarote early afternoon yesterday. We arrived at Puerto Deportivo De Las Palmas Marina at 0830 this morning. Apparently we can’t stay after the week end due to an upheaval of pontoons. We are hoping to charm the HM in to letting us stay.
There are a few things to fix including the fridge and windlass. We will probably be here for about five days working on the ship and keeping an eye on weather. The weather can be less predictable around the islands.
We hired a car on arrival with me the designated driver. We had an amusing drive finding parts. Lets hope navigation at sea is better than on the road! We drove all over the city before finding the compressor for the fridge in a chandlery close to the boat.
Our card was marked for a memorable lunch by the chandlery staff. ‘Where can we eat real Island food? Not tourist food!
Las Brasas, Firgas was the answer! The best Spanish food I’ve eaten in a very long time. All prepared in house and all local produce. The restaurant was heaving with locals and the excellent, very professional staff, gave us a fabulous experience. The chandlery staff wrote down what we should order too.
I know my friends Steffi and Rolf are here. I’m hoping to catch up with them.
February 26th 1800
Steffi and Rolf caught up with us the day before yesterday. They are anchored out in the bay. It’s marvellous to see them again.
We have had two fabulous suppers out in the old city. Last night I cooked and we had supper on board. Steffi and Rolf also met us the night before last and they are joining us again tonight. Yesterday Rolf was a huge help in finally removing the old windlass.
The new windlass will be here on Friday … we hope. Today David and me were repairing the deck, which is an amazing 50 mm thick. We will be ready to cut brand new holes when the new windlass finally arrives from Italy.
The fridge is sort of working … we hope. Another job for David to check before we victual the ship for the Atlantic.
We are finally out of Las Palmas Marina and at anchor. We plan to leave at first light.
The anchorage is quite full. We had a final catch up with Rolf and Steffi and their fine ship ‘Piccolino’, a very business like Halberg Rassy 42’, built in 1986. I met this wonderful couple in Santa Maria, the Azores last year.
So lovely not to be in a marina!
All the jobs have taken longer than expected. We now have a windlass. Removing the old one and fully repairing the deck took three days.
The new one was finally working on Saturday … just after lunch. David replaced the fridge compressor and that finally settled down and started to work properly on Thursday … we hope.
David has installed new starter batteries.
Provisioning, refuelling, taking on water was finally completed early afternoon today. I then drove Kris to the Frontier Police so ‘Taipan’ could be officially checked out.
Sunday was a wonderful drive in to the mountains high above the clouds.
8thMarch 1330 GMT Diary
Finally getting in to sea mode and the rhythm of the voyage. We have all had the winter off!
We are now in to day three. James and me are on the midday to 1600 watch. Kris and David are resting.
We have travelled 330 nautical miles to midday today. The Canary Islands are difficult to leave as the winds surrounding the islands are greatly disturbed by their mass. Funnels of wind between the islands and convergence zones at the southern ends effect the weather for a considerable distance offshore. It was 150 NM before we felt happy in fairly settled NE winds.
The weather looks good for this Atlantic crossing.
There were a couple of moments of doubt that I did not share, as to whether I would actually leave with ‘Taipan’.
The various jobs in Las Palmas took their time and I was starting to worry about sailing with ‘peoples’ but the incomparable James is here, warming his bones … thank goodness … and so far … well … so good. Kris and David are generous and kind.
9thMarch 0045 GMT
Ships time 0000 and James n me have started the single night watch until 0400. Kris and David did the 2000 to 0000 and will then do the 0400 to 0800. The night watch switch is because of the daily dogwatch of two hours each between 1600 and 2000. Tomorrow night James n me will be on a double night watch.
The winds seem settled at 12-14 knots over the deck and this suits ‘Taipan’. We are mile eating our way in to the long night and we should have another eighteen hours of this wind. Despite this, she’s not going as well as she might, with her dirty bottom.
We are strangely heading west. The trade winds are way to the south and looking ahead there is going to be a patch of very little wind on this heading.
James needed a nudge to wake. I think he was a tad sore prior to departure. Nobody carries pain better than James Robbie. Like me, this is his first ocean crossing although we’ve both spent a fair amount of time in the ocean. James Robbie has spent a lot of time at sea!
Tonight is as warm as last night. The first night needed a layer or two. I’m wearing a light jacket and rugger shirt with just pyjama bottoms.
No flying fish yet. We are far too high.
It’s a luxury for me to shower on a yacht! I’m not used to that on ‘Talisker 1’.
9thMarch 1130 GMT
An uncomfortable night and not much sleep between 0400 and 0800 for James n me as we got thrown around in a lumpy sea. Wind was up to about 19 knots over the deck from the ENE.
An even less happy morning for Captain David as he had to deal with a faulty electric pump on the aft heads.
But it’s warm. The Atlantic is a barren slate grey under a cloudy sky with the sun trying to break through.
No traffic at all since the day before yesterday. A large ship, a tanker, took a big diversion to pass us port to port and called us up! “Were we having a good time?” A nice bit of friendship at sea. After all … that is where the word comes from.
9thMarch 2050 GMT
There was a brief drop in wind this afternoon and we motored for an hour or so.
The wind is certainly back up tonight at 16-19 knots over the deck as we charge into the night under a partially furled, poled out genoa, with the main on its ‘preventers’.
The water maker filled the tanks this morning. David will check the cause of a burnt out breaker to make sure the ‘water maker’ will function again. Otherwise there will be a rationing of water for showers!
We are 500 NM out from Gran Canaria and 2,295 NM from Grenada. Our daily 24H runs have been 150 -160 NM. Tomorrows run to midday will be interesting.
The day has been overcast and the sea state, messy and uncomfortable.
Quite tough in the galley for Kris! She produces wonderful food with no safety strap! She’s hoping for the ocean to settle down a bit.
10thMarch 0600 GMT
An uncomfortable ‘off watch’ 0000 to 0400 as the wind got up gusting 20 knots + over the deck.
At the change of watch James Robbie was on deck, me and Kris were in the galley and David forward. There was a brief screeching metal to metal noise from the cockpit.
Robbie could not identify it. David checked the steering and much thought was given to cause! The final verdict was possibly something shifting in the BBQ attached to the pushpit.
As I write, sitting in the cockpit, ‘Taipan’ continues to sail in to the night in a messy sea state with wind over the deck a more comfortable 15 knots.
The fridge is now a worry. David eats in to periods of his ‘off watch’, problem solving. Not a lot of rest for the skipper but I actually think David likes and thrives on fixing stuff and he’s very good at it. David carries the weight of keeping many systems operating. Of course, David and Kris are both happy and very used to solo watches when they sail alone, so David should catch up on his sleep.
11thMarch 0130 GMT DIARY
Crikey! We are now heading WNW.
Still no traffic since our first full morning at sea when the friendly watch officer on a passing tanker called.
The Atlantic stretches away in all directions.
I was deeply asleep when the alarm woke me for the midnight to 0400 watch. That means I’m settled. It always takes time. As much as I’m happy and flattered to be out in this awesome wilderness with three good people it has made me want to get out here, just me and ‘Talisker 1’. Alone is how I would appreciate this properly.
We are sailing much higher that I would personally have chosen. I would have headed 20 degrees S and 30 W before starting to think about heading west.
In NE winds we continue to head just north of west. The trades are consistent way to the south of us. When to jibe and head south of west is the question! David and Kris know this boat well with all their miles on her.
I’ve just finished Ed Gorman’s incredible book ‘Death of a Translator’ on my Kindle. Ed’s hard copy signed to me ‘It’s all your fault’ will be a treasured possession. It’s safely at home in Suffolk.
A few people do incredible things with their lives. Ed’s taken himself to places beyond my comprehension. His book shares a story that everybody should read. Unbiased and fair, his book literally describes him and the Afghan people being taken to hell. Thankfully Ed writes how he managed to come back!
12thMarch 1239 Email sent to Hannah on ‘Taipan’ Iridium Go
We should see wildlife.
Hopefully whales! Though not too close.
Portuguese Men of War and Dolphins of course. I’m hoping to see Flying Fish. It will mean the tropics when we do. We have a little resident! A tiny little black and white bird with a grey black pointy beak and a long tail. We don’t know what it is. The bird was probably migrating and fallen away from the flock. It’s jumped on Kris’s back when she was asleep. He stood on James’s leg. We want to identify him.
We are nearly a 1,000 miles out from Las Palmas. About 1,900 to go.
Loads of love
12thMarch 1400 GMT
We continue to sail WNW in ENE winds. Currently we have 15 knots over the deck.
‘Taipan’ is going well. When to gibe? David has mentioned midnight.
Because we expect to arrive long before our return flights, talk today is about making landfall in Martinique and then wending our way south down the chain of islands to Grenada. Nice!
The airflow gets warmer and more tropical despite us being way north of the normal sailing route for this passage. We are 25 degrees N and 31 degrees W.
We’ve had a visit from a small bird that was totally lost (note – identified by David Foreman after our return to the UK as a Pied Wagtail … an insect eater).
The bird is in serious trouble and appeared to have left us overnight. Poor thing! He or she was so tame and hopped about on James’s leg. We could not persuade the bird to eat or drink although it pecked around on the cockpit sole and even went below.
There is still no sight of another vessel since our second morning out from Gran Canaria.
I’ve just had a scream of a read. “Jack de Crow’, written by AJ Mackinnon. Mackinnon describes his voyage in a Mirror dinghy from Shropshire to the Black Sea. Slightly different to what we are doing! But much more daunting than us out here, Mackinnon sailed his Mirror dinghy across the Channel … mad!
Not surprisingly, the little bird was found dead on deck.
14thMarch 0725 GMT
Kris and David gibed the main on to port yesterday morning on their watch. James n me then removed the pole and set the stay sail and genoa on port. We have been sailing the rum line ever since. A consistent 15 knots over the deck and the joy of a beam reach since mid morning yesterday.
James n me are half way through our second night watch (on ships time). Ship time is 0600. I’m still GMT 0730 for my own navigational purposes. We had sailed above 25 degrees N.
The saying is, leave the Canaries and ‘sail south west until the butter melts’!
Ahead of us, we face a period of virtually no wind and we’ve been sailing towards this area for days.
David’s suggestion to sail to Martinique will let us experience a little Caribbean island hopping before our flight home.
The ocean has been sloppy and inconsistent. Kris has produced amazing grub. The Admiral Kris and Captain David are still pretty chilled putting up with the Pom invasion. James R is never happier than at sea.
15thMarch 1020 GMT
1,360 NM to go ! Me n James are on the morning watch 0800 -1200 Ships Time. Ships time is now 90 minutes earlier than GMT. We are heading SW and are now 23 S. I hope to see flying fish soon. Our position is 23 17 N 39 W. Yesterday evening got uncomfortable as the wind increased to create a short, very messy sea. Kris was in the galley. Not fun! This morning the seas are flatter and we have 12 knots over the deck on our beam.
Just after coming on watch at midday today an extraordinary act of nature. Alone on deck I was looking over the port quarter and a whale breached tail n’ all and crashed back on to the surface of the ocean about 200 metres away.
A beautiful white belly! I shouted ‘whale!’ and grabbed my camera as the whale breached again, though not completely clearing the surface the second time.
‘Whose manning the life raft?’ David asked.
We all stood spellbound as the dorsal fin broke the surface, the whale was swimming swiftly towards the boat and then disappeared beneath the waves. James Robbie was certain it passed under the ship.
Then the whale was to starboard, some way off our bow and I was able to film the whale breaching again … twice before the whale disappeared.
The whole thing could so easily have been missed! If only I had captured the first incredible breach on film.
(Note: Later identified as a Minke Whale)
The wind has now finally died and we are motor sailing under main and genoa.
I woke at 1600 to find the ‘Admiral’ had done a load of washing. As I write this in the cockpit in the middle of the ocean I feel like I’m in a Chinese laundry.
At last … Flying Fish !
16thMarch 0800 GMT
Bermuda is 1,400 NM WNW.
Barbados is 1,200 WSW.
Cape Verdes is 950 ESE and
Africa is 1,330 E.
We are motoring but there is wind ahead of us from the N, which will slowly veer east … perhaps from Monday evening. We could have a windy arrival in Martinique.
The Trades are steady a long way to our south!
News that defies belief! The horror of 40 innocent Muslims murdered in New Zealand has reached us mid Atlantic.
16thMarch 1753 Email Sent on ‘Taipan’ Iridium Go
Under 1200 miles to go now and we are nearly 21 S. The Atlantic is warm … 26.7 degrees. Tropics! We are 1,000 miles from the Cape Verdes, the nearest land.
A great joy yesterday. Flying Fish …. at last! BUT just after noon yesterday alone on deck and looking over the port quarter a whale suddenly breached … completely clearing the surface of the ocean. My cry of ‘whale’ had everybody on deck. The whale had breached again before I had switched my camera on. The whale swam swiftly for the ship, its dorsal fin cutting the surface of the water before disappearing. James R thought it passed under the boat. And then 300 metres off our starboard bow another breach! And this time I got it on film. This is why I’m here. Absolutely wonderful! Xxx
1808 From Abigail (my eldest Granddaughter)
Hello Grandpa Suffolk! Mum’s driving so she had me read this message out. Thank you so much for sharing that moment with us, hopefully someday I can experience one with you. Love, Abi
17thMarch 2040 GMT
Still motoring and now over a glassy smooth ocean. We’ve had some rain. Tropical. We are now 21 N and 44 W. There are a few squalls around us. There will be wind under them. David and James Robbie are putting in a precautionary reef.
David caught a small Benito.
Some wind is expected tomorrow.
‘Taipan’ lumbers very slowly across the ocean under power. Wind from just about any direction makes a huge difference. Just over 1,000 NM to Martinique.
18thMarch 1910 GMT
We have been motoring since mid morning. Last night me n’ James switched the engine off at 2200 and with 10-14 knots over the deck from the north we beam reached overnight and in to this morning. There are some signs that the wind is building this evening.
The tiniest Flying Fish was on deck.
19thMarch 1110 GMT
‘Taipan’ motors across the ocean in very light northerly winds her engine a rhythmic, now irritating, beat. 500 nautical miles to the south the Trades are steady. High pressure sits just above us. It’s not moved for many days.
Last night I was very restless and struggled to sleep waking constantly.
20thMarch 1500 GMT
Kris has just cooked an amazing ‘stir fry’.
James n me are now on the afternoon watch. Ships time is 1300. During the dogwatch this evening, ships time will go back another 30 minutes.
We are 20 41 N 51 46 W. We have about 17 knots of wind from the ENE that should veer just below E. We hope to jibe soon and set a course SW for Martinique.
The ocean is a beautiful blue and crystal clear. There has hardly been any debris. There have been a few Flying Fish. The water is so warm.
Last night a ship and the first sight of mankind since the first full morning of the voyage. Me n’ James were on the midnight to 0400 watch and James spotted the target on radar. She came within about 3.5 nautical miles … heading SW.
Martinique is 650 nautical miles away so perhaps, god willing, we will make landfall late Saturday early Sunday.
22ndMarch 0900 GMT
Ships time is 0630. Me n James are on a double night watch. Last night we motored in very light airs. After midnight the wind blew 14-20 knots on Kris and David’s watch, which is how it was when we came on watch at 0400. It’s now dropped to a gentle 10–12 knots from the E.
It’s been a frustrating 24 hours. ‘Taipan’ has motored quite a lot. In between, an overcast sky has brought squalls and rain. Nothing with too much power though!
Under 400 NM to Martinique so it looks like a Sunday arrival.
The engine has now run for well in excess of a hundred hours.
James has a nasty cough, which could turn in to a bad chest! Winds are more consistent since yesterday evening 14–16 knots over the deck from the ESE.
It’s a lovely moonlit night.
A ship … cargo … ‘Annernieke’ has just passed 8 nautical miles astern of us heading SE.
I’m much better sailing alone.
I will never forget the feeling when making landfall in Norway in 2016 in ‘Talisker 1’. Or the first time I crossed the North Sea so many years ago in ‘Samingo ll’.
Our arrival in Porto Santo, Madeira in 2018 was very special. Doc had talked so much over the years about Porto Santo and ‘Talisker 1’ and me, after much preparation, had finally followed in the footsteps of the Doc and ‘Tuesday of Ore’! I took so long in the delightful bay of Porto Santo, savouring the moment, sailing in the lee of the island and then slowly … very slowly, prepared me and my ship, for a safe arrival.
Then there was St Mawes, Cornwall after me and ‘Talisker 1’ had sailed the 1,400 nautical mile passage from the Azores. I’d looked after myself, which enabled me to look after my ship. In 4,000 nautical miles in two months last year, we barely motored for propulsion.
David and Kris sail differently to James and me. They are arrivals people. They enjoy the destinations. A sea voyage is something to be probably suffered and endured, when moving their home from place to place.
24thMarch 0800 GMT
0500 Ships Time and its been a lively night. James n’ me are on a double night watch. So second shift 0400 to 0800 Ships Time. James’s cough is horrid and Kris has a very sore calf muscle. Weight baring … only just. A galley strap would have prevented the injury.
It was very lively approaching supper time yesterday. David needed persuasion from Kris to pop a second reef in the main for the night.
A genoa sheet is chafing at the clue probably due to the pole chafing it and there was much debate as to what to do. Kris said ‘swap em over’ and make the chafed sheet lazy and she was dead right. The clue is very high.
It looks like this will be the final dawn on this cruise across the Atlantic. It’s been unexpected in some ways and we are not there yet. Occasionally the wind drops between the squalls and strong gusts. We are having an uncomfortable ride.
25thMarch 0400 GMT
We are two nautical miles N of Pt de Macouba, the northern tip of Martinique.
Today was rough approaching Martinique from the east. The first seas of the voyage and ‘Taipan’ was sailing downwind under a double reefed main on port and the genoa partially furled and poled out on starboard when the track for the pole broke.
So for finals, to the northern tip of the island, we were without the spinnaker pole. The separate, upper section of track, which is not supposed to be weight baring, but just for storage, was torn off. In the process there is a small tear in the main sail, punctured by the pole where it had parted company with the mast.
The pole is now lashed to the deck.
So here we are! God willing we will drop anchor later today.
We are underway for Bequia from Rodney Bay St Lucia after a short sail to St Lucia from Martinique yesterday. We had one night only in Martinique.
It was very nice to see Polly and Tom, fellow Suffolk neighbours, and their girls Daisy and Dora, who we had met in Lanzarote for the first time in Martinique.
Polly and Tom sailed round the world before the girls, now 11 and 13, were born. They have taken their children out of school for a couple of terms so that the girls can experience the ocean.
They sailed the Trade Wind route from Lanzarote in 20 days (350 nautical miles further) and ran the engine for about eight hours.
Le Marin, Martinique, was very busy. The bay and anchorage packed. It was very lovely to see Rodney Bay with very few boats at anchor.
We had a couple of nights in lovely Bequie. The first on a mooring and the second anchored off Jacks Bar.
A ride round the island in a pick up truck has greatly inflamed James’s back. So much so … he is poleaxed in his cabin in very great pain. James does not hurt himself at sea.
So underway this morning at 0600 and a few minutes ago it was agreed to sail straight to Grenada in the hope that 48 hours of being still, in harbour, will settle James’s back. It is the only option. So we will miss out on Grenada Keys.
So ‘peopled’ out I stayed on the boat the first night in Bequie. Last night Kris and David dined at Jacks Bar alone and I stayed with James who was in a pretty poor way.
We have about 45 nautical miles still to go today. The last sail of this cruise.
James has finally got up to enjoy the last few miles! Wonderful.
1stApril 1200 BST
We are on the Lufthansa flight Frankfurt to Heathrow.
I slept across the Atlantic as far as Finistere. James was in extreme pain and I was oblivious despite the extremely cramped seats on the Thomas Cook flight from Grenada.
James was well looked after with the transfer between flights in Frankfurt.
We did sail direct to Grenada Port Louis from Bequie. Probably the best sail of the whole trip. We were allocated an alongside berth amongst the super yachts in Grenada. The facilities in the marina were good with a pool, great showers and a private beach.
I’m not sure James would have managed the flight without the 48 hours in Grenada.
So! We are nearly home!
As I write this last entry in the diary, we can see ‘Dead Mans Hole’, River Medway, a favourite anchorage for both of us, under the port wing of this A320.
Philip, our splendid Orford HM, is hopefully meeting us in arrivals.
Home to my Sally mid afternoon. Fantastic.
Hugest thanks to James Robbie for being my mate and Kris and David for being the most patient, kind and generous hosts. Love em all to bits.
Thanks, James. It was great having you both and thank you for the post. Hope you have a great summer on the ocean!! Cheers from Panama
Loads of love to you both from Suffolk.
Fantastic read James, thanks for sharing. We agree David enjoys the challenge of fixing everything. And delighted you enjoyed Jack de Crow (we passed it onto Kris) it was one of our favourites.
Love Red Roo xx
Hello lovely Red Roo. Cor! Thanks for reading the blog. I love the very professional blog you do and it’s a pleasure to follow you. Kris and David were soooo kind putting up with useless me. Not James Robbie! James is brilliant. But, if you can take this advice. Never ever agree to take a single hander anywhere on a boat. This one is bloody useless with ‘peoples’. Lots of love to you both. J
Really enjoying reading this blog James. I crossed the Atlantic in 2011 from Bermuda to the Azores and I’d love to do it again. You have such a good turn of phrase and compelling prose. It’s a very compelling read.
You did the ‘windy’ passage. I loved sailing to the Azores from Madeira last year with ‘Talisker 1’.