Al Shaheen was launched from Universal Shipyard into a cold and brown Hamble River
on a brisk day at the end of March and I immediately sailed her to Lymington with
Sheena Jolley. On 25 March we did a presentation sail in the Solent for Yachting
Monthly with James Jermain but, unfortunately, there was little wind in which to
really show her off. A few days later Tony Brimble and I sailed her to her summer
berth at Sutton Harbour, Plymouth. This was a fabulous sail in cold but bright weather,
mainly easterly F5, so we bowled along under poled-out jib and really tested Mike
Pocock’s headsail booming system, which worked faultlessly and made single-handed
gybing of the poled headsail so easy.
In mid-May I sailed with Sheena towards the Solent for the OCC Spring meet at Beaulieu.
After a wild night in Dartmouth, during which we dragged anchor among the warship
moorings and sought refuge alongside the town quay in the middle of the night, we
left after the blow but developed rudder trouble off Dartmouth and had to put back
to Plymouth to haul out and get it fixed. Then, on 20 June we sailed to Falmouth
where we joined the OCC Scotland and Ireland Rally for dinner at the Royal Cornwall
YC before departing on our own quick trip to Southern Ireland. We had a fast trip
to Crosshaven where we berthed at the Royal Cork YC and received their wonderful
Irish hospitality, before leaving next day for Kinsale where we spent a couple of
days anchored in the river, exploring ashore and visiting the Fishy Fishy Café!
After that we made my favourite anchorage at Castletownshend, in wonderful weather,
before heading back to Glandore and an overnight passage to the Scillies where we
moored to a buoy in New Grimsby Sound and explored Tresco Gardens and Bryher. We
had a very uncomfortable night there in a westerly blow, which worsened as it veered
to the NW and then north. By morning it had moderated and we skimmed across Tresco
Flatts and out of Crow Sound back to Plymouth with a northerly wind off the land
and flat seas. This was the “shakedown” cruise before departure for the Atlantic
Biscay, Spain and Portugal: August & September 2002
After a wonderful party in Plymouth attended by 15 or so friends, Tony, Sheena and
I were given a splendid send-off on 15 August for our Biscay crossing en-route to
the Canaries and the Atlantic. Due to unfavourable winds we put into Camaret for
a couple of days and met up with Saltwhistle III (David Baggaley and Susie (then)
Garcia, OCC), also bound for the West Indies. Also there were Oriole (John & Christine
Lytle, RCC and OCC) and Troubadour (Stuart and Anabelle Ingram, RCC and OCC), whom
we didn’t meet at the time but with whom we talked all the way across the Atlantic.
From Benodet we had an easy, light-wind, crossing of Biscay to La Coruňa, where Tony
departed for England. Sheena and I then had a very enjoyable few weeks day-sailing
down the Galician and Portuguese coasts visiting Camariňas, Muros, Portosin (with
a side trip to the wonderful cathedral at Santiago de Compostela), Porto Novo, Combarro,
Islas Cies and Bayona. Over the border to Portugal we called at Viana do Castelo,
the very dirty port of Leixoes (from where we visited the lovely told town of Porto),
Figueira da Foz, Nazare, Peniche and the huge and expensive new marina at Cascais
where we were weather-bound for over a week while we explored Lisbon.
The Atlantic Islands, Porto Santo and the Canaries: September/October 2002
After 10 days in Cascais, I was getting itchy feet so when we got a favourable wind
we sailed direct for the Canaries instead of making further south to Lagos as originally
intended. It was so lumpy off Cascais, after the recent SW blow, that I was unusually
sea-sick, or maybe it was just nervousness at starting out on my first deep ocean
leg! It turned out to be a very frustrating trip; firstly we couldn’t lay Lanzarote,
then after we had set course for Porto Santo we had a night of severe rain squalls
during which I put in, and shook out, reefs countless times and Sheena spent all
night dodging a Russian trawler intent on snaring us. It was therefore with great
relief that we entered the beautiful harbour of Porto Santo on 25 September after
5 days at sea.
As Funchal has a poor reputation as an anchorage, we decided to leave the boat for
a few days in Porto Santo marina and take the ferry to Madeira, rent a car and explore
the island. We had a wonderful time exploring this wild and beautiful island and
driving over hair-raising roads with precipitous drops into ravines in which could
be seen the wrecks of less cautious drivers!
After a two-day lumpy, downwind sail we arrived in the windless and almost deserted
harbour of Santa Cruz de Tenerife early on 5 October in 100% humidity and 38ºC. I
spent the day, bathed in sweat and swearing, descaling the forward heads pipework,
which had blocked solid with calcium scale. Delightful!
Next day we sailed coastwise to Puerto Radazul, a little marina where we had decided
to leave Al Shaheen for a month while we returned to the UK and, after “putting her
to bed” we left for Gatwick on 11 October.
Returning on 12 November and joined by Tony Brimble a few days later, we sailed her
to San Sebastian de la Gomera, our port of departure for the Atlantic. Sheena arrived
on the 22nd and, two days after the ARC, on 26 November, we set sail, having waited
for foul weather to pass through. For me, this fully justified not being in the ARC!
Atlantic crossing: La Gomera to Grenada. November/December 2002
We motored for half a day before the wind picked up on a close reach and a SW course
to gain southing in order to reach trade wind latitudes. We were very lucky to find
the trades on Day 3, ENE at 20 knots, so we stowed the main, rigged both headsails,
set up the Monitor and rolled away downwind. The NE trades blew at 18 to 25 knots,
day after day, for the next 15 days until we were 50 miles east of Grenada. It was
a technically easy passage, lots of wind, constant rolling and a mean boat speed
of over 7 knots. The Monitor did all the steering while the crew kept watch and just
rolled the headsails up when heavy squalls came up on us. We streamed the Aquair
towed generator which gave us 6 amps at 7 knots, and power sufficiency, but made
fishing impossible until it seized up in mid-Atlantic and we had to run the engine
to charge the batteries. Even when we did fish we caught nothing!
We arrived in Prickly Bay, Grenada on 14 December after 18½ days at sea and 2,768
miles sailed. During the crossing some slackness had developed in the steering system
and I suspected that the skeg guide bearing had again worked loose. We slipped her
on 23 December at Spice Island Marine and a South African mechanic and I engineered
what we thought would be a permanent solution to the problem. In the event it only
lasted 3 years before giving problems again!
Tony returned home for Christmas and my elder son Richard, and his wife Mary, joined
us on 19 December for a couple of weeks Caribbean cruising. We spent Christmas Day
in prickly Bay and had Christmas lunch together with Saltwhistle III at the Moorings
Hotel in Secret Harbour.
Cruising in the Eastern Caribbean, January to May 2003. Grenada to Anguilla and back
After Xmas, we sailed with Richard and Mary to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou then to Union
Island and spent a couple of days in the Tobago Cays. From there we raced Firefly
(Stewart Whiting OCC driving Andrew Bray’s boat) 25 miles to Bequia. It was lively
sailing, hard on the wind all the way, and a close call but Stewart won by a few
hundred metres! We spent New Year’s Eve at the Frangipani in Bequia and R&M then
departed for St Vincent and the UK.
After two weeks in Bequia, Sheena and I made a one-day sail 70 miles to Malgretout
in St Lucia. En route we attended a MayDay call from a sinking catamaran “Bad Bad”
where the rescue of the sole occupant was ably managed by David and Bridget Mackwood
on Holga. From Soufriere we sailed to Rodney Bay, via a night in Marigot Bay where
we got eaten alive by mosquitos. From Rodney Bay we progressed up through Martinique
and Dominica to Marie Galante calling at Le Marin, Anse Mitan, St Pierre, Roseau
and Portsmouth. All the places so far had been firmly on the E Caribbean “Milk Run”
but Marie Galante was definitely off it, being well up to windward of the normal
Dominica/The Saintes run. Consequently, it was unspoiled, un-touristy, quiet and
beautiful and we enjoyed it.
Whilst in Marie Galante we received an email invitation, as two of only 4 guests,
at the secret wedding of David and Susie (Saltwhistle III) to be held in 5 days time
back at Ladera Resort in St Lucia, 140 miles back the way we had come! We arrived
on time back in Rodney Bay, a little salty after a testing sail and had a very enjoyable
time with John & Christine Lytle (Oriole) marrying off the Saltwhistles in an idyllic
Once the wedding was over, Sheena left for the UK and Denis and Heather Dryden joined
me for a couple of weeks to sail to Antigua. Progressing to Antigua by way of Martinique,
Dominica, The Saintes and Guadeloupe (Des Haies) we arrived in English Harbour on
7 March and then spent a few days at Green Island and Nonsuch Bay before D&H left
for the UK on 19 March.
Once Sheena returned we had another few days at Green Island before sailing up to
St Maarten via Gustavia in St Barts. Five days anchored off the end of the main runway
was enough for me and we proceeded north to Anguilla where we anchored in Road Bay
and spent a very enjoyable week exploring the island. From there we returned to Antigua
via St Eustacia and St Kitts, arriving covered in grey ash from the Montserrat volcano
as we beat up past Redonda at night.
From Antigua we back-tracked south to Grenada in just two weeks, calling at all the
usual stops. We finally arrived at Grenada Marine’s yard in St David’s Bay on 8 May
and hauled out a few days later for storage during the hurricane season.