Birthdays and blue fenders

New fenders

The new fenders

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on this blog, which is a shame, because I’m supposed to be keeping up with Masquerade and not just when we are sailing.

She has had various modifications, alterations, and repairs and we are pretty much there in terms of the skipper being happy. She has her bow thruster, her macerating electric heads that can use either sea water or fresh water, and the holding tanks are now fitted.

There are new speakers on the deck to go with the new audio system, and just about every bit of navigation equipment has been replaced. In fact, we are due to sail to the Hamble tomorrow to have the Raymarine instruments signed off as being fitted properly.

Birthday champagne

Pouring the birthday champagne on board

And she has lovely new blue fenders to go with her hull.

Apart from that, the only outstanding niggles are a slight ingress of fresh water, which we now think is rainwater coming from somewhere; and the water pump that needs replacing.

So now let me backtrack. We haven’t brought Wikka back since the onslaught of Django (who is now calming down a bit) but we have been on board a couple of times, the first immediately after the major work had all been completed.

That involved motoring down the Medina from the boatyard, so not quite sailing but we had our maiden mooring – first time of mooring on our own and at Masquerade’s new home in East Cowes.

That trip also coincided with celebrating the skipper’s birthday in the Isle of Wight, starting with drinks on board and then the water taxi to West Cowes for dinner at Mojac’s. (That is a superb restaurant, by the way – 10 of us all had three courses, none of which disappointed.)

At the helm

At the helm

Another couple was supposed to have stayed on the boat with us, so we rushed down a day in advance to clear up but Terry’s team from the boatyard had left Masquerade better than she was before they started. (And unfortunately one of our friends was ill so it was just the two of us after all.)

Osbourne house from the water

Osbourne house from the water

That was a non-sailing trip: Thursday and Friday night on Masquerade, Saturday night at the Union Inn and back to the boat Sunday night. There was no wind whatsoever and we vetoed going out just on the motor.

Proof that the sails went up

Proof that the sails went up

Our next trip was not long ago; we had a couple of days here just to make sure everything was ok, which is was, apart from the abovementioned water niggles. We came down on Friday and back Sunday so we did get to sail a bit on Saturday – “buggering around in Solent” as the expression goes. Not for long, but it was very exciting finally to have a sail in Masquerade in the UK; we finally have a sense of ownership now that there isn’t a constant stream of people taking up floorboards (are they floorboards on a boat?) with the result that everything ends up in different lockers.

But back to the sailing – we thought it made sense to make sure we could get the sails up and down and see how she handled with just the two of us. It was a lovely day, well in terms of wind, it was a bit cloudy and miserable, and we did enjoy our couple of hours out on her. We went out into Osbourne Bay and did a huge amount of tacking.

another blue hull

Another blue hull

I should say here that there was a race on that weekend so we spent a huge amount of time tacking to get away from various racing boats and then tacking to get away from being too close to shore. So at least now we now we can do that without squabbling. We also discovered that we can get into the Medina on the small craft side of the sandbank at the entrance.

Watcher at the Medina

The watcher at the Medina

And on a totally different note, the first day of this trip involved James in business meetings all morning so I experimented with what the sailor’s wife can do on board. The newly hooked on sewing sailor’s wife in particular, so that involved bringing my sewing machine from home and trying out cutting a pattern and sewing up an apron in the Japanese cross-back style. It all worked well and I didn’t even get in the way of Dave from the boatyard who was doing his final tests to establish that the water pump needs replacing.

Measure twice cut once

Measure twice, cut once

You can sew on a boat

You can sew on a boat

That’s it up to date for now. I’ll get this posted so this weekend’s events can be the more recent on the blog.


In fact, you can sew on a boat with plumbing work going on…

Wine, gin, and cleaning out the bilges


Saturday night’s fajitas.

Cleaning out the bilges: it’s not as bad as it sounds and in this case it was worth it. Although on the Biscay adventure I was a bit squeamish at the thought, Kevin told me that the bilges make a good larder and general storage place. Hold that thought.

After our first night on the boat, I was up early Sunday (without wanting to go into too much detail, it made me realize that holding tanks are a necessity and not a luxury) so I drew dog-walking duty. There is a nice field not far from Masquerade’s pontoon so it is very handy for Wikka. We had breakfast in bed (or is that breakfast in berth?) and then set to work.

A priority for both of us, well, me in particular, was to find all the wine and gin that we had secreted away in various lockers and storage areas so it would be safe on the passage. (Safe from breakage, that is, though Kevin did keep winding me up by telling me he’d found another of my gin stashes.) We got up to five bottles of gin and about a case of wine in total, as well as some brandy and a bottle of Madeiran poncho that we were given by John and Ana Paola. (And yes, we found one bottle in the bilges. See? A good storage place.)


View of the marine from on deck.

The galley benefited from a good scrub down: I may have mentioned earlier in this blog about some cooking spillages on particularly rough sections of the trip from Portugal. James was focusing on finding the spare door catches that he knew where in there somewhere. Have I mentioned that there are lots of spares on board? Remember all those broken dishes before we even left Portugal? There was that and another catch that had started behaving strangely during the voyage. Paul ‘mended’ it with some WD40, after which it stopped working altogether.

There wasn’t as much to do as I had thought; we’d done a fair amount of clearing out of general stuff as we went along, so it was a case of lots of scrubbing on my part and lots of looking through drawers and lockers on James’s part. We need to start replacing household-type things like tableware, bedding, unbreakable glasses (for all that wine and gin) and the electronics need to be tweaked. Maybe I’ll go into that some more another time when I understand or at least know more about it myself.

It all took somewhat less time than we thought so we finished up and got an earlier ferry back. That all sounds like a bit of an anti-climax, but we were happy with the way she looked when we left; the dog wasn’t too traumatised; and since then Terry has moved Masquerade to the boatyard where work is commencing.

First night in the UK


Inside the ferry.

We headed off to the Isle of Wight last weekend to get Masquerade ready for her trip to the boatyard, so we set off for Portsmouth at 9am for the 12 o’clock ferry. And we made it onto an 11:30 one. Wikka’s first time on a ferry.

Unfortunately, when we turned up to talk to Terry at the boatyard he was interviewing so James didn’t get to talk to him. We found out later that he hadn’t made it clear who was worth interrupting him for and James should have been on that list of people.


You want me to get on that thing?

Anyway, that ‘to do’ item unchecked, we headed for the marina to introduce the dog to the concept of the boat. He’s fine on our little river boat but Masquerade was a bit challenging for him. Although at one point, when I was trying to coax him down the companionway, he decided that it really was easy to get off the boat so he legged it and was halfway down the pontoon before I caught up with him. That was his default to whenever we tried to get him below deck.


Maybe it’s not so bad.

Still, he coped well and at one point managed the steps by himself.

But back to the weekend. I was in charge of cleaning the galley and James was in charge of tinkering; however, we were in weekend mode and once we’d made up the bed (berth) in the main cabin, we decided we needed a lunch break. We’d had sandwiches on the ferry so we went for a pint at the Lifeboat pub/restaurant in the marina,  and very nice it was too – Bombardier Gold for James and London Pride for me.


The Lifeboat.

As if two boats weren’t enough, Wikka then had to endure the chain ferry from East Cowes to West Cowes; he coped very well, however, and was as good as gold when we dragged him along to a couple of chandleries for bits. (I don’t know what bits, just boat bits. ) As was I, come to think of it. My hints at a Tilley hat (like the one Paul may have been wearing in some of the photos) fell on deaf ears and I wasn’t interested in bits.


On the chain ferry.

I think the first visit was relatively unsuccessful, ending in the purchase only of some cord for the dodgers (the cord on the port dodger had started to come adrift at sea). See, I’m getting up to speed with the technical terms; if I haven’t mentioned it before, dodgers are those things with Masquerade on them.


Home of the Black Sheep.

We had a small break in between two chandleries for a quick stop at the Cowes Ale House, which looked particularly inviting, and did a splendid pint of Black Sheep. At our second stop we both got gloves (I may not have whined enough about the fact that it was impossible to keep hands dry and warm on the voyage, but maybe that’s better for a sailor’s wife tip), after some hilarity on the part of the nice man in the shop when James tried his on the wrong way round. He maintained that having the shiny, grippy bits on the outside was a fashion statement, sort of a Michael Jackson bling effect.


Inside isn’t so bad after all either.

IMG_3182Not surprisingly, after the two pints each, cleaning and tinkering were not a huge priority so we decided that Saturday should be a day off and Sunday would be the energetic day. We fed Wikka, who by then was hungry enough not to do his usual “Oh, must I eat in a strange place?” dance. After a little desultory tinkering and cleaning, we set off to the Lifeboat for dinner, having booked a table. Chicken fajitas (excellent) and ice cream (took longer than any ice cream I’ve ever eaten – nearly a half hour wait, though to be fair we were in no real rush) later we wandered back for an early night.
So exciting – the first night on the boat in the UK, even if sailing wasn’t on the agenda this time.


Terra not so firma


Champagne brunch on board

After our arrival in East Cowes, we all had the luxury of proper showers. Bliss. My first shower since Tuesday morning (phew!) and it was the best shower I ever had. Thank you, East Cowes Marina. Plenty of hot water at a strong pressure. I didn’t want to get out.

It is what I would call unseasonably cold in the UK – snow? really? – so the hot shower was even more welcome after expecting to feel warmer once ashore but still having feet like blocks of ice.

There was then a flurry of packing, cleaning (particularly the remains of curry sauce in the galley area and corn flakes everywhere else), and brunch on board (the boys had all assumed we would be getting in later so the pubs would be open. Wrong!)

I insisted it should be champagne brunch as I had a bottle of fizz from Lagos that I had been hoarding. But partway through my first glass (yum – fizz out of a plastic tumbler) I remembered the pet collection duties so had to desist on the basis that I might be driving later.

Before I forget, my cousin, who has been reading this blog and who is the sister of the cousin I mentioned who lives in Huntington – same town as Kevin’s sister, informs me that her brother, my cousin Tommy (as he was known when younger) is the mayor. Wow. (Update: Whew! What a relief. Apparently my cousin, whom I’ve always thought of – fondly, of course – as a bit of a jokester and smartass, is not a mayor. That was irony on the part of his little sister.)

She also informed me that she was a little confused by some of the terminology, both nautical and UK English. So, for anyone else who may be uncertain:

  • Chocolate teapot (or chocolate fireguard or chocolate watch): something particularly useless; imagine pouring hot water into a chocolate teapot or wearing a chocolate watch.
  • Bow thruster: basically (I think) it pushes a jet of water from the boat so you can manoeuvre the boat more easily when mooring in tricky situations.
  • Boys’ toys in this sense: gadgets, as opposed to women of dubious integrity. (She thought that boys’ toys and bow thrusters made my blog verge on needing censorship.)

Beaufort-Scale-2Where was I? Oh, yes, getting ready to leave. Paul filled out our log books for us; he was skipper for everything up to Muxia (where it always rains) and then Kevin was skipper for the non-stop run. So I am now the proud owner of a sailing log book that shows I did one trip of over 1,000 nautical miles (tidal) with maximum winds of Force 8. That’s a lot of wind. And, not that I want to drone on too much about it, there were several occasions on which the wind gusted to Force 9 and Force 10. Oh, wait, even Force 11 on at least one occasion.

(Oh, yes, that reminds me: snippets and memories. Tip for the sailing chef: cassoulet, or dishes where beans are the main ingredient, are not advised two nights in a row when on a non-stop sailing voyage. Just saying.)

Kevin’s mother and stepfather came to collect him; they live on the Isle of Wight so he was going to stay with them for a couple of days. He was sent off with a care package of some particularly gruesomely dirty kitchen towels, the perishables from the fridge, and the rest of the smoked ham. Damn, think I forgot to get a photo of that ham. Did I mention that the ham necessitated the addition of dental floss to the first aid kit locker?


On the chain ferry

Two more modes of transport
James, Paul and I had to head for the ferry; he to catch a bus and train, we to be collected by our very kind friends. (Turns out that we thought they would bring us back and spend the night but they drove to Southampton, collected us, drove us home and then went back home, so spending about 9 hours driving that day. Thank you both very much.) James checked the timetable and there was a ferry at 12 that got in around 1.

We headed off (it’s about a 10 minute walk from the marina) fairly burdened down, including Paul with the old radar bit (not sure of the technical term but it’s pretty big) and got to the ticket office at 11:40. The next ferry, we were informed, was at 1:30 because the 12:30 had been cancelled. “What about the 12 o’clock?” James enquired indignantly. Turns out he was looking at ferries in the other direction.

“Don’t worry,” the woman behind the counter told us cheerfully, “you can get the Red Cat at 12:15 from West Cowes; it’s about a 10-minute walk to you’ve got plenty of time.”


On the sea cat

Off we charged, still burdened down, to catch the chain ferry across to West Cowes and then walk to the Red Cat terminal. We got there about 12:06, so just in time. I wanted three single tickets (one way to my US readers) and it turned out it was cheaper to get day returns (“Just don’t tell me that you’re not coming back,” the woman behind the counter warned me). I did so, panicked when we were in line to board and discovered I had only two bits of paper, rushed back to the counter to be told pityingly that each bit of paper had three fares on it. Duh.

Off to the Red Cat, which left on time and got into Southampton earlier than the ferry would have done. Paul’s bus was there so a hasty goodbye and he rushed off. Our friends turned up and off we went.

Home at last

Back home, a quick tour of the outside of the house for our friends who hadn’t seen it since it was repainted on the outside, the building works (a battered conservatory being replaced), and the kitchen garden (a few droopy broad bean plants and some thirsty looking seedlings), and then they dashed off while we did the pet run. Off to the kennel to pick up the dog, then off to find the new cattery and collect the cat. An exciting moment when we realized the car was short of fuel and the station on the way was closed. (But we fuelled up once we’d left the new cattery.) Another exciting moment when we discovered that the dog (usually he’s only fed at lunchtime but had been given food later in the day) had barfed in the back of the car.

Back home once again, a crash course for the cat in climbing in and out of a window as her cat flap has been demolished with the rest of the collapsing conservatory, and then off to walk to the pub to meet our local friends who had been following our blog and were astounded to see us home so soon.

A couple of drinks and a nice juicy steak at our favourite Friday night steak place and we could barely keep our eyes open. They had come by car so kindly offered to drive us and the dog back home. Normally we prefer to walk back along the river as it’s a nice walk but we jumped at the chance to get home sooner.

We watched a bit of Ender’s Game on TV (looked pretty rubbish to me, and written by a Mormon homophobe apparently) but we couldn’t stay awake much beyond 9pm. We are slowly getting our land legs back, but it’s a weird sensation to get out of bed in the middle of the night and have to hold onto the wall because the room is rocking. (No, we didn’t drink that much.)

So this is the end of our Bay of Biscay adventure, but I’ll try and keep the blog going; after all, this is about Masquerade as much as anything else and I want to keep a record of how she does in the boatyard and beyond. I may also add the occasional snippet I forgot at the time and I’ll try to complete the photo galley.

There are also have the tips for the sailing wife to finish, not to mention more research into nautical terms in everyday use.

When we do next take her out, which probably won’t be for a couple of months, I’ll reinstate the link if anyone wants to play stalker and see where we’re going.


Masquerade’s mooring


Masquerade in her new home





Mooring up

We’ve arrived, we’ve moored up, with only a slight hitch when James steered beautifully for Q7 when we are on Q6.

Lots of rope and fender manoeuvres – I actually helped on that front! – and the boys soon clamoured for beer.

James inadvertently christened the boat and lost his beer when he was tidying up a warp.

(For those concerned about litter, he did retrieve the can.)


The proud owner celebrates

So a little rest and relaxation before we clear out the boat and get her ready to go to the boatyard.


More celebration













The onshore power all ready for her!

Back in Blighty!


Approaching Cowes

We are now gently drifting up the Solent towards Masquerade’s new home in East Cowes. The wind and weather have been on our side for the past 24 hours or so and we have made very good time. Kevin and I had the 12-4am shift but I was sent by the skipper to rouse the others for the approach to Needles Channel.

It was still dark when we started off, and there was one exciting moment, caused by a combination of the headsail blocking the helmsman’s view and a confusion in communication whereby the critical word “don’t” wasn’t heard. There was a fair amount of shouting and bad language all round and I (quietly sitting there doing my chocolate teapot impersonation and wondering “what buoy?”) got a much closer view of a buoy than I ever hope to enjoy again.

That was the only tense moment and it has been all smooth since then. The boys did get the sails in goosewing mode briefly, though I missed the moment.

Let me get this online as we are soon to arrive in the marina.

Highlights, lowlights, and general observations:

Paul says he has a photo of Kevin’s pants (not sure if they are Danger Mouse or Pac Man) hanging up to dry, so hopefully that will make an appearance in the photo gallery. Kevin said at least it proved he washed them but I maintained he could have just been airing them out.

Paul makes a mean scrambled egg on toast and a very elegant lunch wrap. He also made me the best cup of coffee I have ever had; it came after 12 hours of misery with a migraine and two particularly wet night watches.

Kevin has excelled himself with dinners: we have had fish stew, beef casserole, chicken curry, sausage cassoulet, and chicken and ham pasta (did I mention the smoked ham we bought in Oporto? It’s still going strong). I’m tempted to get a pressure cooker for home.

Still no fish caught yet; Kevin teases Paul about that and Paul thinks the most satisfying part of catching a fish, if he does, is watching Kevin clean and gut it.

When I was able to put these thoughts online, various friends, relatives, and loved ones were given the link. one crew member said, “I’m being stalked now,” so we now jokingly refer to “the stalker”. In a nice way, of course – “Spoken to the stalker lately?”

There have been a few losses and mishaps along the way. I may have mentioned the disappearing fender; we also lost the outboard engine cover. The instruments have been playing up, and now the wind speed gauge has stopped working. The water gauge suddenly read virtually empty, though we haven’t run out of water. Another water mishap was when Paul was watering up in Camariña (finally! That coil of hose we lugged out Portugal was used!) and the end fitting fell into the tank.

Much of the actual Bay of Biscay crossing was a blur; you kind of lose all sense of time, so I can’t really say much about it other than it seemed like a very long time. It is very disconcerting, always having to grab something whenever you move. Choppy waves can also make for interesting accidents and spillages: Kevin’s waterproofs provide a pictorial record of what he has cooked for us. And I think the comment, in the fish stew moment when the boat was particularly frisky, was shouted up the companionway, “Pick a tack and stick to it!”

Perhaps the funniest spillage was when (not to shirk my turn at being chef) I was handing up bowls of cereal to the boys on the basis that it would be safer for them to add the milk themselves. There was a clatter and I looked up to see James peering down with the sort of “It wasn’t me!” expression that you normally see on the face of a small child. The bowl of cornflakes had clattered down the companionway and we are still discovering corn flakes in strange places around the boat. At least, as he pointed out, it wasn’t as bad as it would have been if he’d already poured milk in it.

Dolphins on the starboard bow

We are now in English waters and I haven’t been able to write this or post anything for ages so it will be one of those stream of consciousness posts with events in no particular chronological order.

We’ve just spotted land – land ho! Salcombe, to be precise. So we are sneaking up on our destination. We were originally supposed to go straight to the boatyard where Masquerade is having some modifications both essential (holding tanks) and boys’ toys (bow thruster).

But where was I? I am not going to reread or edit so please forgive typos and repetition. ( Don’t forgive bad grammar, though, there’s no excuse for that, and spelling mistakes only if they are typos.)

The sea and winds, though in the right direction when we left Muxia, were higher than expected, so Masquerade was more wind surfing than sailing for quite a while. It was certainly a vast improvement to be running with the wind as opposed to fighting against the wind with the motor on. We were making 5-7 knots rather than 3-4.

I also discovered much later in the journey when I got twitchy about forecasts of gale force winds, that we’d been sailing in gale force winds most of the time.

Before I forget, and I don’t want to sound bitter and twisted, but Kevin and I have mostly experienced rain on our watches, where the other two have been buzzed by a Lear jet and rescued an exotic bird that flew into the cabin.

Still, we were happy with our aerial display put on by half a dozen gannets, and we had many dolphin encounters. It looks as though they are playing chicken with the boat: they swim around the bow, diving under the bow and crossing back and forth. It’s not as though they catch up with us on their way somewhere: they approach from one direction and then head off somewhere else when they have finished playing.

The phosphorescent plankton were also an amazing sight: dozens of little greenish lights in the water around the boat.

It always rains in Muxia

We are now in the Bay of Biscay and, I believe, outside the continental shelf. For the first few hours (8am-noon, Kevin and me on watch) the winds were rather stronger and the waves rather higher than the forecasts had led us to believe but apparently it is all becoming calmer. I was rather white-knuckled for most of the watch, not sure whether to look at the sky (for a while the blue bits were never in the right place), the sea slightly unsettling at times), or the instrument panel, which held a grim fascination until, at one point, when the wind speed read 56.3 knots, I managed to tear my horrified gaze away.

Paul came up at one point (he caught a fish but it escaped during a particularly high swell) and cheerily announced that the panel was reading apparent wind speed so it was really over 60 knots. Chocolate teapot moment big time. Later, Paul and James both came off watch early and all the boys were very comforting and reassuring: the wind us behind us so it’s the most comfortable point of sale, we are making very good progress, and – the voyage mantra – Masquerade is a game old bird and likes it rough.

I’m back on watch soon so thought I would try and get caught up a bit on this.

Yesterday we provisioned up – not, I think, a pleasant experience for Kevin. He had an organized meal plan and proper shopping list and the other three, like naughty children, were chucking into the basket things that hurt the chef’s heart: instant soup, Pot Noodle, that sort of thing.

Just realized I am out of signal range so may not be able to post this for a while.

After the supermarket dash, James and I found a sports shop for extra layers. It’s the right time of year for that – all the warm stuff was on sale. We did confuse the nice lady in the shop when we said we needed to be warm but rejected a lot of the cotton (bad for layering at sea, I’m told) things she proudly produced. She spoke no English and my Spanish is not up to ‘thin layers of material that is manmade and wicks well’. She also seemed a little confused when I was happy with the less attractive, men’s items than the nice ladies’ gear.

Back at Masquerade the decision was taken to wait out a spell of bad weather and leave at daybreak. We thought we might try to go to the monastery – a local attraction – if there was a long enough break in the rain. During the first spell of rain we made it as far as the marina cafe, where our western villain had been replaced by a young lad who was keen to use his English. Unfortunately he used it to tell us it was always cold and rainy in Muxia. Interestingly, he had been playing ‘I Will Survive’ when we walked in and he quickly changed over to the 70s Americana mixtape they’d had on the day before. I guess disco, albeit also 70s, was not appropriate forvour vintage.

Kevin decided to go back to the boat and do the chef food preparation duties and the other three of us dutifully soldiered on. By now the weather was such that we’d given up on the monastery; now it was a case of looking for somewhere for dinner. That required field work in a few other cafes. In one of them an older gentleman who had been in the fishing tackle shop (oh, yeah, forgot we’d gone there; never spent so much time in fishing tackle shops as on this trip) came over trying to give (sell?) us an umbrella (which I am sure had also been in the shop). Maybe he thought it was ours.

The final stop was the restaurant virtually opposite the marina. It had a huge amount of local charm: there was on old boy at the bar with a bottle of red wine. He looked for all the world like a cross between Willie Nelson and Tom from our local village. Captain Pugwash, the boys said. Later on, a gentleman of similar vintage and level of facial hair wandered in – except this one had one. of those knitted hats that look like a tea cosy. In Rastafarian colours. When we left he gave us a beautiful smile and said, “Byee byee.”
The waitress spoke no English but did confirm that there was a set menu for 9 euros and ran through the options, of which I recognized only sardines and octopus.

Could do worse, we decided, and went back to get Kevin. It turned out that, after his bout of food prep he decided to have a little siesta – only to be disturbed by the old boy trying to get him to accept the umbrella.

Dinner was an experience: the waitress was still there but behind the scenes. Our waitress was short, broad, heavily made up, bleached blonde hair in a French plait, and dressed in skin-tight black leggings and top with multi-coloured, ankle cowboy boots. She spoke even less English than our previous waitress but was happy to repeat everything several times. Kevin was afraid we might leave him as a tip. Still for nine euros, it was pretty good value.

Holding in Muxia

The weather hasn’t improved yet so the decision has been taken to wait till daybreak tomorrow. We are thinking of walking to the monastery but the wind and rain have been lashing down. Bummer. So close to the home stretch. We’ve also had a slight hitch in our domestic arrangements – when I called the cattery to extend Perdy’s stayi was told that they are closing on Friday “until further notice”. Luckily our friends the Joyners are leaping to the rescue to collect her and rehouse her till we’re back.

The Internet is still painfully slow or I would try to upload a few random photos. I have also been working on my handy tips for the sailing wife.