Monday, January 30, 2012

St Lucia

26 January 2012

It didn't take 24 hours to get to St Lucia. We left Barbados at 5pm, not long before dark and had to keep slowing down to avoid arriving in the morning dark at Rodney Bay, St Lucia. This downwind sailing is a lot of fun. The wind has rarely dropped below 15 knots since we arrived in Barbados. Great for sailing, but a bit of a fight hanging out laundry.

Pitons, Soufriere

While Barbados looked like Surrey from the sea, St Lucia is much more exotic and green with towering volcanic peaks. Much of the island is still undeveloped, but Rodney Bay in the north is a very rich area, full of bars and restaurants to cater for the many Americans who spend the northern winter here.
It still has it's raw side and we were to see it at the Friday night Jump-up at Gros Islet, where you can get street food, rum with anything, and watch the locals dance. It was not the sedate dancing that we saw in Barbados, more like sex with clothes on!
Gros Islet is the local village to Rodney Bay, and the houses are glorified shacks, but again, everyone was friendly and we didn't have any problems – well Stu did remove a prostitute's hand from his wallet in his jeans pocket – so you do have to be alert!
Becca, Dibben, Malista

Becca duly delivered to St Lucia, she went off to 'couch surf' in a local house. If you haven't heard of it, look it up on google. It is a really cool concept for independent travellers. Becca's couch surf host was a interesting local lady, and we took Becca and Malista on a short day hop to Soufriere 15 miles down the coast. This is a really special area, that St Lucia is best known for – the volcanic Piton peaks give the island's beer its name.
It was fascinating to hear all about the local culture from a well-educated, independent and sassy lady, who runs her own wooden furniture workshop. She was educated in the US, so she has a lot to say about the good and bad of her native country, St Lucia. She had never seen her country from the sea before, so it was really great that we gave her a ride. It was very interesting to see her reaction to the boat boys that charge to 'help' tie you to a mooring buoy, even when we need no help, and to 'mind' your dinghy while you are ashore (read that your dinghy might not be in good shape if you don't pay) and the ozone-layer high taxi charges for foreigners. It was also interesting that we attracted the police boat, for a 'safety search' The boat boy said it was only because we had a local person on board.

Friendlier boat boys selling fruit, Rodney bay
We returned to Rodney bay after Peter departed for the airport and chilled a little. Well chilling is something we have hardly had time for yet, but we made the acquaintance of the live music in Jambe De Bois restaurant, and their very acceptable Rotis. ( Wraps of curried meat and potatoes, standard fare in these parts.)
Sport was on the agenda with 6 nations live rugby and then the experience of our very first Superbowl. In the words of a good friend. “It can have it's exciting moments but first you must lower your intellectual expectations of sport”. We were thus enthralled for all 3 hours it took to play the 60 minute series of throw and catch routines, surrounded by armoured supermen intent on cuddling the nearest opponent and the latter trying to retain their dignity by running away. Some adorned with a tea towel tucked into their waist band, presumably to wipe their hands after touching the ball which could not be guaranteed free of contagious disease. After which excitement, an advertisement or 5, were required to calm the hysteria. Still the biggest excitement came near the end when, I guess, a highly paid professional, caught the ball and fell flat on his ass over the score line, disaster, You see its all about tactics and sitting down on your ass on the try line apparently wasn't the tactic required at this precise time.  We know this because just before that play (that's the speak)  the guy throwing the ball, opened a plastic case strapped to his arm and consulted the instruction page written for that round. Maybe I missed the point but surely If the opposition need to know the tactics of the opponent, they should target that little grey plastic flip card holder!! More study may be required but I will need a mild sedative first.
Well it was a little taste of American 'culture' to help us understand them!

The most amazing aspect of St Lucia is the snorkelling opportunities, both on the reef at Pidgeon Island and at Soufriere. I didn't know the names of anything we saw, but a few hours of education on the internet helped with identification. I was very excited to be pottering about, head in the rocks, and find my first real live sea-horse. Having worked in epilepsy research, we had a bit of a thing about hippocampus- the bit of the brain often affected. Our work unit was adorned with all things sea-horsey, and now I got to see real one close up – about 6inches long and working his way along the weeds with his tail.

I also found a large ray sleeping/hiding in the sand just behind our boat, 2 flying gurnards checking out our anchor chain, a sea snake checking out our anchor. Also, sanddivers lurking menacingly in the sand, and large squid doing the the swimming forward/backward thing. Bigger fish lurked at the end of the reef. I always find it a bit freaky to find something fishy as long as a metre in the water with me, but I'm learning to desensitise to the 'aaah, run away' temptation.
I have to keep pinching myself,  to assure myself that we are really here, and we don't have to go home after a week, like the cruise-ship passengers and Sandals' resort sun-worshippers. There was a wedding every day on the beach in front of us at Sandals. Why would you choose a ground-length white frock for that? It must be caked with yellow sand by the end of the photo shoot. And sand in the wedding bed can't be all that comfortable. 

Rodney Bay has excellent stocking up options, some of it very expensive. Luckily we are still working our way though the boat supplies, including veg and cured meat from Spain. So far we have  found prices for staple foods to be about the same as Uk. Some veg is very expensive, especially tomatoes and peppers, £3-5 per kilo. £2 for a small lettuce. The smaller the island the more expensive it gets, but then that's not so surprising. Some things you just have to learn to live without or eat less, or convert an area of the cockpit to a vegetable patch and grow our own.  They seem  to have rain, sun and volcanic soil in ample amounts here, so not sure why it should be  difficult to grow good local food,Rodney Bay has excellent stocking up options, some of it very expensive. Luckily we are still working our way though the boat supplies, including veg and cured meat from Spain. So far we have  found prices for staple foods to be about the same as UK. Some veg is very expensive, especially tomatoes and peppers, £3-5 per kilo. £2 for a small lettuce. The smaller the island the more expensive it gets, but then that's not so surprising. Some things you just have to learn to live without or eat less, or convert an area of the cockpit to a vegetable patch and grow our own.  They seem  to have rain, sun and volcanic soil in ample amounts here, so not sure why it should be  difficult to grow good cheap local food, and certainly no reason to import it from California.

Cruisers see below for information about mooring etc. We anchored by Pidgeon Island, Rodney Bay, hard sand, good holding once in. Better shelter than the main anchorage but a long dink ride to the marina in town. Fab snorkelling on the reef just off the boat - saw seahorse, flying gurnard, sea snakes, big wrasses (1m), sanddivers, pipefish as long as my forearm. Excellent bar/restaurant ashore with wifi, Jambe de Bois - Saturday night guitar and fiddle, 7-9pm, all the tunes you would know. Sunday night Jazz.
You can also anchor off the marina entrance, but we took several attempts to get a good hold, and the wind does blow.
Inside the marina charge 0.70c US per foot for a berth plus water and electric, or 0.35c US/ft for a mooring in the inner lagoon. Through the inner lagoon is a dinghy dock, go through the alley and there are 2 supermarkets in a modern mall. Foodmarket has christmas pud, sugar free juice, Fray Bentos pies and much more at a price. For better value run of the mill stuff, SuperJ on the main road has an excellent selection, and some local fresh veg at good prices.
Bus 1A to Castries, 2.50EC, from the main road. Interesting markets with local food stalls in the veg market.
We went to Soufriere on a Sunday - avoid the weekend, weekdays are quieter. We took a mooring buoy on the left as you approach Hummingbird anchorage (it was blowing). A boat buoy assisted and we paid 15EC(should have haggled to 10EC). Amazing snorkelling under the boat - huge fish. It is too deep and shelving to anchor here.
We went ashore and boys on the dock wanted 10EC per hour! to mind the dink. They were a OK but a bit intimidating.
The town is a bit raw, everything directed towards extracting your cash. The SMMA marine park wardens should come around at dusk to collect 40EC for the mooring (even if anchored), but they never visited us.
In Castries we bought a Digicel SIM for the smartphone (EC$15 inc $5 credit) and then they enable a data bundle $12.50/week. It is slow and often not up to 3G speed, but OK for basic internet. The Digicel shops in Rodney could not help with this, but the shop in Castries knew their stuff. Since then it has worked in St Vincent & Grenadines, but not at all in Martinique(goes onto roaming and data will not work).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Arrival 7 January 2012

Ahh, what bliss, arrival in the Caribbean. It really made the passage so worthwhile, especially thinking of our friends in the UK being dealt lashings of freezing rain, and our friends hibernating through another Med winter, the same rain without the freezing. Actually forget that, they are freezing.
In the anchorage,there were old boat friends and new ones to meet - we had heard them on the SSB net but were yet to put faces to voices, all anchored in Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown. It has a reputation as a rolly anchorage, and it did require the use of the flopper stoppers at times (buckets or drogues hung out from the sides of the boat to reduce the pendulum effect) but it was very lovely despite that, with a white sand beach. It was a shock to hear a loud snorting noise near the cockpit one day, and even more of a shock to see a race horse being exercised 1 Km out to sea in 5m of water next to our boat. In fact one boat awoke one morning to cries of 'help help', to find an exhausted trainer thrashing violently in the water in a vain attempt to turn his head-strong stallion back toward to shore. Don't worry, they are built of strong stuff and they both returned in safety.
Spot the horse!

Our first task was to check into this new country. The books state that you must take your yacht into the cruise ship port, and the skipper only should go ashore. Well the cruise ship port is pretty unfriendly to yachts, being full of er, cruise ships, with a swell, lots of wind and yacht-snagging fenders. So we took the advice of fellow cruisers, went in by dinghy. When asked if we had come in by boat, Stu said yes and waved in the general direction of the dinghy. Satisfied with this, and without looking out the window the officials stamped us in and welcomed us to Barbados.
(If you are following next year, go to Port St Charles up north to check in, you can also come alongside and fill with water there for a couple of quid)

Barbados is such a friendly island. The country has a strong British colonial background, but has been independent since 1966. It remains a commonwealth country, and this is evident in the supermarkets where you can buy NZ produce tax free (unlike in the Uk, thanks to our EC relations).  Everywhere we went people tried to help us, without the annoyingly Turkish 'help' which usually leads you to their brother or cousin. They genuinely welcome visitors to the country. Food prices are high, even in the local market and entry fees for the tourist sights are eye-watering, even by European standards (20 quid a head to see some caves, come on!) The cruise ship passengers keep on coming, and keep on paying.
The best value for money trips, were to take the local buses. 2$ Barbados (about 70p) for any trip, so you could do your own tour of the island for about a fiver for the 2 of us, all day. The blue regulated buses were clean and occasionally sedate, but we often chose the yellow minibuses which play loud reggae just for the buzz. They ply the same route, but compete for customers, so often the journey is a little frenetic as they overtake each other to get to the next busy bus stop first to steal the passengers of the following bus. Its a game of leap frog with reggae and tight cornering. Only one yellow bus was slow and uninterested in getting ahead. Interestingly it had a sweet aroma about it as well!!

New boats were arriving every day, having finished their long voyage, like us. Beach parties and rum punches were shared and enjoyed. Getting ashore on the beach was tricky as the swell crashed onto the beach, and quite a few dinghies turned turtle on the way in. I'm sure we will all hone our surf dinghy skills before long.

Cricket is a bit of an obsession in Barbados, so we paid a homage to the Kensington Oval to see a game of the Caribbean  T20 cricket series, ideal cricket game for those like us, with a short attention span, flood lit and excitement non stop. All over in 3 hours, and quite enjoyable. We had to have a kiwi explain the rules to us though, as we couldn't work out where the target for the ball was.

It would have been quite easy to think that we were only going to sail downwind for ever more, but Mike, the commodore of the local cruising club was gathering support for the Round Barbados Mount Gay Rum race. The thought of going back out to sea, and then going upwind, and into the ocean swell was enough to put most people off. But Stu saw a record to be broken, with the prize being the skippers weight in rum. The double-handed record stood over 10 hours and he felt sure we could beat it. All the other cruising yachts politely declined, but oh no, not us. Gluttons for punishment, we signed up. Then we met the competition. One 44' yacht had sailed upwind for 24hours to Barbados just to do the race (previously had sailed the really hard way from Australia around the Cape of Good Hope) and another yacht who enjoyed their Atlantic crossing so much they do a circuit every year. And then there was the local entry, a big red racing boat, with new sails and empty tanks and no live-aboard  paraphernalia to weigh him down. Alas, we were done for. 
But we did win the practice race, with line honours and on handicap We had the help of Tony from Tactical Directions for this race which we all enjoyed. Matador did us proud on the big day. We did beat the double-handed record by about 1 ½ hours for the 60 mile race, hurrah, but sadly so did the big red race boat and the upwind practised 44'er - they took 30 and 10 mins from us respectively. Oh well, it was great fun anyway. Most of all, we got over our fear of the big bad sea, and of going upwind. When you can have a hot shower, rum and a comfy nights sleep at the end of the race you can enjoy pounding into big waves and having them dump on you and all of the boat and having the locker contents randomly rearranged once more. We now proudly sport the Mount Gay Rum Red Caps sought all over the world and only worn by the few who participate in one of their events.( You cannot buy one, even if you are a cruise ship passenger)
The competition!

The winner's weight in rum, with Mike the commodore (right)

Matador leads the race!

Tactical Tony 

One tourist attraction we thought worthwhile was the Welchman Hall Gully (23 Barbados$), an old collapsed limestone cave in a gully that has been planted with tropical plants. It is a beautiful place, with an informative guide to the plants, we visited with Claire and Mike from Siga Siga. Wild monkeys swing through the trees, and it is great place to have a picnic amongst the dangling lianas. We picked nutmeg off the ground,and pondered the dangers of walking under so many coconut palms. 
The east coast, Bathsheba

A rum shack
Carol & Steve (Inamorata) Claire & Mike (Siga Siga)

Dancing at the Oistins Fish Fry
A highlight of the Barbados visit was to the Friday night Fish-fry at Oistins, a one-time poor fishing village, now frying tourists for dollars, for an outdoor fishy meal on a plastic plate (about 12 quid, so not a fortune by UK standards). It's fun, and a bit touristy these days, more tourists dancing than locals on the reggae stage, but the older folk were having a lovely time walzting and tango-ing in the warm midnight air, dressed up to the nines in their dancing frocks. Despite the tourists the atmosphere is one of typical Caribbean fun night out and the locals eat drink and dance as they know how.

Close to the anchorage, some old ships have been deliberately scuttled to provide snorkelling fun, and the wrecks teemed with reef fish. It was not a particularly clear day, but you can get the picture:
The pictures were the last underwater ones to be taken with our Olympus Tough underwater camera, not even a year old and it took on water and blew up the battery. So far we seem to have saved it with a dose of 'corrosion block' magic formula, but we can't risk it underwater again. So take my advice, don't buy one!!! Get a separate case for your camera and at least you can see if it starts leaking and avoid catastrophe.

Soon it was time to move on, and we were due in St Lucia to meet Peter Dibben. A young American girl, Becca, from a fellow cruising yacht needed a lift, so we signed her on to our crew list and set off for a new island. It was interesting experience for us to have crew, as we have sailed on our own for so long, we didn't really know what to do with her. She was an interesting character though, and it livened up the 24 hour passage to have someone to talk to on night watch. She said our boat sailed fast and smoothly, so she can come back anytime!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Having seriously short memories , we signed up for the Mount Gay Round
Barbados Regatta, which means we have to go back out round the other
side of the island. When will we ever learn??
Yesterday we won the practice race by 3 minutes on handicap.
Unfortunately the competition is a bit stiffer tomorrow and we have to
go round the windy and wet side of the island so we'll have our work cut
out for us. Early start at 7.15am so off to bed soon. As part of the
race we have a Yellowbrick tracker fitted so you can see how our
progress is going at :
and click on Track the Race.
When will we ever learn??

Monday, January 9, 2012

Atlantic Crossing La Gomera to Barbados

Atlantic crossing – La Gomera to Barbados 2747 nautical miles, average speed 6.04 knots (over ground), 5.7 through water
18 days, 23 hours. 4.6 engine hours.
Wind 15-25 knots ENE most of the way.  Gusts and squalls up to 30knots. Seas 2-4 m always confused, NE swell mixed with NW swell from hurricane force depressions off the Irish coast, and SE swell from somewhere.

After 21 nights enjoying the simple delights of La Gomera, as the locals sang, drank and played guitars around the bars in the lead up to Christmas, we managed to slip our lines from La Gomera and head south. The weather was still good sunbathing weather, but the Gomerans were into their winter woollies and coats already, fashion no doubt being dictated by the cooler 'peninsular'.

We were in touch with our fellow west-bound yachties on our SSB net every morning and we were hearing of lively conditions, despite the 20 knot, seemingly perfect forecast. We cautiously put up the mainsail, fully reefed to it's minimum size, and a scrap of genoa unrolled and we set off onto the high seas. I couldn't help but think of the 'Discovery' voyages including Columbus, in 1490's, who left from La Gomera, setting off into the real unknown, not knowing if they would ever find the land that none of the western world had yet visited. At least we knew where to find safe harbours at the other end, and not too many savages to greet us.
We headed south towards the Cape Verde islands, an African island group, now an increasingly popular holiday destination. The seas were lumpy and uncomfortable, and all the yachts on passage were complaining of the difficulty in doing much more than keeping watch, cooking, sleeping and staying upright. The first 3 days is the worst, as we adjusted to keeping 3 hour on/off watches, increasing to 4 on/off. We were making daily runs of 140-145 miles, which we were very pleased with, and Matador was behaving very nicely in the large swells.
On 23rd December, we started to get some wind from SE, which was going to make it harder  to reach the Cape Verdes, being more of a reach, and we were going to miss Christmas day there anyway, so we decided to turn more SW and miss our friends already in Mindelo, to head straight for Barbados. We felt we had done the hard 3 night introduction bit, and didn't want to stop at the CV's, then have to do it all again. We were getting SE'ly smackers – rogue waves not coming from the wind and swell direction. They would smack violently into the hull and dump bucket loads of sea onto the top of Matador. This meant that every hatch had to be kept closed, so it was hot and smelly inside, only the dorades (little funnels on deck) providing any ventilation at all. 

Stuart managed to cook and took great delight in serving up exquisite dinners, while I would have settled for a sandwich, my stomach never really knowing if it was 2am or 2pm. Every evening I spent an hour or so on the computer, updating our position report and trying to get weather forecasts and GRIB files (a type of graphic weather file). I had to connect the computer to the SSB radio,  tune to the shore HAM radio station and try to make our computer talk to the shore. This would take many attempts, as the propagation of the radio waves is very variable. With my bum wedged onto the chart table seat, my top half would every few seconds try to be transported to the other side of the yacht, my stomach lurching up and down, eyes trying to focus on the dancing letters on screen, and my fingers frustratingly missing the keys on the keyboard. All this in the hot stuffy enclosed boat with waves smacking noisily into the sides. After this would be time for dinner, but Stu could never quite understand why I wasn't very interested in the food he was painstakingly preparing.
Before departure, I had prepared the galley with lots of instant food that could be thrown together in a hurry, but Stu was determined to be chef! You can take a look at our on board menu below.
Day times were a little easier, and I managed to make lunches, breakfasts or brunches or whatever they were, depending on our latest shift, and bake bread from the fantastic LIDL wholemeal bread mixes. They just need 5 minutes mixing with warm water, resting and no kneading, so not too messy and very good results too.

We gradually increased our watches to 6 hours on/off, there was very little to see at night, no moon and only 3 ships on the whole passage (2 of which crossed within a mile of me at night despite all that empty ocean!). The nights were 12 hours long now, so this split the night in 2.  Thank goodness for mp3 players and a headlamp for reading. I found it more comfortable to stand up and do cockpit 'ski-ing' to accommodate for the boat motion, than to be wedged in the corner of the cockpit for hours at a time, and you really had to be wedged, if you relaxed for a moment you'd be thrown off your seat onto the cockpit floor. Even off watch, in our sea berths in the main saloon, with the canvas lee clothes up to keep you in, your flesh constantly rolls around your bones. I'm not sure what happens when you nod off, if you are reflexively tensing muscles to oppose the roll or if you just go jelly like. It wasn't hard to sleep after first 3 days, sleep deprivation has it's advantages.
We now had a new heading, and dropped the mainsail completely (it seemed to be rounding us up and increasing the roll). We poled out the genoa on the port side and the blade  (a large working jib) was hanked on to the moveable forestay and poled out  to starboard. When the swell and wind worked together from behind, we had a blasting sail, surfing down the waves. As the wind got up we would furl away some genoa, without having to go on deck, and in the windiest conditions of 30 knots we had just the blade up, luckily we never got to find out what we would need to do in 40 knots!
Twice a day we had a very uncomfortable sea, with cross seas coming from the NW, making us corkscrew around, the sea seeming to boil confusingly around us, maybe it was some sort of tidal effect. The Aires windvane coped very well all the way across, even in the worst sea state. We used the electronic autopilot once, when Stu needed to get into the back locker to tighten some of the Aries' control line pulleys, as they were working a bit loose. Lots of other yachts reported problems with their electronic autopilots on passage, as the gear was having to work hard 24/7 in the difficult swell conditions, and many yachts took big waves in the cockpit, soaking electrics and creeping into hatches. We were very pleased that we were not reliant on the one technology. None of us were keen on the idea of hand-steering all the way across (as our friends on Steel Sapphire did last year, Lynn's hands and feet were bruised from bracing herself constantly on the wheel).
Every day we checked into the SSB radio net, and there was a radio check with Egret, far ahead of us, who had lost their rudder (probably thanks to a whale or container) not far out of the CV's and were heroically sailing their 38' boat in really difficult conditions with a drogue fashionied out of fenders, rope and kedge anchor, to keep them on course for St Lucia. Plenty of badly prepared yachts make it to the West Indies every year, but Egret was a well prepared sea-worthy boat. Goes to show it can happen to anyone. For all we have to say about plastic-fantastics (Bavarias and Jeanneaus) – there are plenty of them here that have made it across – so Vonasi, Birvidik, Shecat – no excuses, even catamarans can make it over here. We met a couple sailing Gulliver G across the Atlantic. GG is a Nicholson 32, and it was first sailed across by Clare Francis in the mid 70's making her the first solo female to cross the Atlantic. Amazing that the little boat has done it again, and incredible how many records have been broken in the last 30 years.
Some yachts further south of us, off the CV's had rogue waves that knocked them over sideways, almost to 90 degrees.  Everyone's experience is subjective, so you never know if you are just being a big girls blouse or a hero in the conditions. I don't think I would describe it as a pleasant passage, but luckily we all have short memories, so it wouldn't stop me doing it again.  In Barbados all arriving yachts agreed it had been a boisterous passage, and this was upheld by a couple of people who had sailed over in different boats and different years. Climate change or just the luck of the draw – who knows. I'd never appreciated that gale force and hurricane force winds battering the west coast of Ireland would send their swell all the way south to our route, but there were 2 large depressions in the North Atlantic during our passage across, so maybe they accounted for the cross swell. It certainly didn't live down to it's nickname of 'The Pond' for us.
Three weeks of not being able to put down your cup, or knife and fork or plate, without the contents and the cup working their way to the floor within seconds is pretty wearing on the nerves. Having to move around the boat moving from one hand hold to the next while balancing a bouncing cup of tea is not much fun. A stable platform for dinner seems such a luxury after the passage.
Day by day the miles to go reduced and all of a sudden, Christmas day, New Year, and half way had  passed by without much celebration. Sometime around New Years eve Stu got a strike on the fishing line, and with much effort hauled on board a gigantic yellow fin tuna. It weighed in about 22kg, and took all Stu's effort to stay on board while he 'dealt with it'. Blood and guts ran over the sidedecks, scales and clots in the ropes that run along the decks. Hmmm. I had a vegetarian snack while all that was going on, in between being the surgeons assistant, handing gaff, knives, alcohol (to kill it quickly via the gills), all the while the swell making it difficult to walk, let alone take the requisite camera footage,  and sail the boat.  Well it provided many kilos of filleted tuna to add to the vacuum packed meat in the fridge. We were seriously over-catered now.

Once we arrived in Barbados we were pleased to have extra provisions, as the island is really expensive for basics. I'm not sure how the locals afford to live there.
Flying fish (yes they really do fly) were abundant, and often landed on the deck flapping at night, somewhat stunned and confused by the sudden appearance of an obstacle in the their flight path. I found one stuck to the spinnaker halyard in a comic pose of 'splat'. They are eaten in Barbados, but we never bothered with them , as they are quite bony and small, and we usually found them dehydrated and smelly.
The days ticked by and really before we knew it we were getting close to land. It looked like Surrey.
It was bliss to sail into the flat water downwind of the island and drop anchor off the white sand beach.  Never had a landfall felt so good.

Notes on provisioning
Most of us ladies were fretting about how much to buy, and there are no hard and fast rules, and lots of advice in books and on the internet. I started provisioning in Greece and Italy, buying local inexpensive long-life stuff like sun-dried tomatoes, vacuum packed feta and parmesan, salami. In Spain we flash-mobbed Mercadona in Almerimar and stocked up on tinned olives, capers, tuna, fruit juice, dried beans, veg in oil, pasta etc. In Lanzarote we did the same in LIDL, and topped up in Las Palmas Mercadona supermarkets until there was no space left in any locker. It will all be more expensive in the Caribbean, and we love to savour the Med flavours for as long as possible.
(NB buy more tinned tomatoes – fresh ones a fortune in the Caribbean)
 We also bought lots of cured meat, vacuum packed and refrigerated it should last for months. It's hard to know when to stop, as you have to push all this weight through the water 2000 miles with your sails. That is the advantage of a heavy weight cruising boat over a catamaran or a light weight plastic boat- you can load it up for  a round-the-world voyage, even if you are just going on a weekend cruise.
Our last minute fresh produce came from La Gomera in the market. We would normally try to buy produce that has not seen a fridge,  as it lasts longer. The market ladies say that everything is a little bit chilled on the island, as it has to get there first. Despite this, and 28 degree heat inside the boat, all bar the tomatoes lasted surprisingly well.
NB 8th Feb, just found one lonely perfect lemon in foil and finished the potatoes. Onions still going.
PS The La Gomera butchers' vacuum packing was dire. We double wrapped all the meat tightly in cling film to improve it's chances. We binned some beef, but then we had had to eat 22kg of tuna – see below.
What I bought:
3 gem lettuces (refrigerated – should have bought more)
6 green apples (should have bought more)
6 leeks (kept well in basket,wrapped in kitchen roll )
3 cucumbers (kept OK in basket, wrapped in kitchen roll)
3kg red and green tomatoes (erupted into mould in phases and had to be sorted and eaten quickly, refrigerated when space allowed)
1 head celery (lasted well wrapped in kitchen roll in basket)
2kg lemons (washed in bleach, rinsed,  dried and wrapped in foil – some still went mouldy)
1kg limes, lasted well in kitchen roll.
5kg potatoes (still eating them weeks after passage)
4kg onions (still eating them now)
2kg red onions (lasted for passage, but not much longer)
1kg carrots (lasted well wrapped in kitchen roll in basket)
48 eggs ( eating them long after the passage, unrefrigerated)
2 bunches of green bananas (hanging in shade)– went yellow, then black, then melted all at same time
Green and red peppers (lasted very well, hung by stalks in a net (curtain netting) sling, contiuned to ripen)
Aubergines ( as above, taste improves as they dry)
Chillis (as above)
3 green cabbage, 1 red ( lasted whole passage but we didn't eat any)
3 double breasts chicken (vacuum packed, refrigerated)
1kg pork fillet, unsliced  (vacuum packed, refrigerated)
6x 500g beef, unsliced, (vacuum packed, refrigerated)
1 large leg of ham (still being eaten and not mouldy)
Bacon and pancetta ++++++, vacuum packed cured meat, refrigerated.
Chorizos and salami, hung in shady airy place.

What we cooked :
Watercress and white bean potage (made before passage)
Chilli con carne (made before passage)
Minestone soup
Chicken curry (made before passage)
Spanish tortilla  (lunch)
Chicken fajitas
BLT (lunch)
Singapore noodles
Bacon & egg sandwich (lunch)
Chicken salad
Stuffed roast pork and roast vegetables (Christmas day)
Tuna cooked in lime and coconut milk
Seared tuna with salad
Tuna and genoese mushroom sauce
Tuna with pink ginger and wasabi
Portuguese tuna stew
Tuna stew ala Clare&Tony, HMG
Corn chips with cheese, guacamole and jalapino peppers
Bacon chilli and tomato pasta.

Favourite products :
LIDL wholemeal bread mix – needs no kneading
Spanish tortillas (potato and onion) in longlife plastic packs

Stu's wisdom and comments.
The tuna lasted 6 days before less than perfect refrigeration took effect and we were forced to return to beef etc. I fished again and within 30 mins had a strike from some monster of the deep. It bent the rod holder and took nearly ½ a kilometre of line on maximum brake, I was sweating just to hold it. With the rod bent at 90 deg, a final surge and whatever it was went it's own way. An inspection of the lure later revealed 2 hooks on each of the two trebles bent almost straight. I reckon  it was at least double the size of the last tuna. You don't need that much lively meat on board. There is no telling what will take the lure. It was the same lure I used to catch 3 to 4 kg fish. Most people we met lost their lures and line in these circumstances so I made the conclusion that heavy gear and lightly built hooks mean the cost of hooking a big monster is limited to a couple of bent hooks. That's my theory.
Technical stuff:
We didn't use the engine much at all. 1 hour to get out the marina and fuel dock.  1 hour anchoring, and another 2 to 3 hours for charging on passage,after making water with the watermaker. Our total engine hours amounted to 4.6 hours and  diesel usage for the passage was about 10 litres. Other power sources : Solar panels 280 watts of panels, aero4gen and aqua4 gen towed generator. The solar panels performed OK but I would estimate about ½ the total Ah that I got in summer in the Med. The boat is rolling a lot so don’t expect them to point at the sun much, also there was more cloud than in the Med and the days are much shorter and the nights much longer. The wind gen performed as well as it always has. Not much but steady, obviously reduced output when running directly down wind. Towed Gen(the TOAD): When first deployed at 5 to 7 knots the output surged from 2 to 8 amps at 12v as we surged down the waves. This was the most continuous input however we had a lot of problems with the rope twisting into knots and reducing the output to almost zero. Recovery to untangle is a fight and don't think for one moment you are simply going to turn up wind and stop to recover the propeller with twin poled out head sails and 20 knots in 4m seas. Some type of hoop, large enough to go over the knots but small enough not to go over the blades with a float attached, clipped around the spinning rope and released to pull back with water pressure and eventually stall the prop, followed with some strenuous pulling with gloved hands will retrieve the prop. Untangling was easy, uncouple the onboard end and pay out to trail behind then retrieve when unwound.  If you are going to use one of these and thinking of an ocean passage you need to try it out to find how much rope and how much weight you need to keep it in the water, It's a hard call as you are unlikely to see swells and sea state similar until you are on the way. Take extra weights for the prop with you. Also you can't fish when it's out so you will want to recover it at speed.
Running repairs:
All boats break when used. The harder you use it the more it will break. Through preparation, testing and replacing or adjusting things that were not perfect beforehand we reduced repairs to a minimum. On our crossing and at times of rough weather, when things work hardest and break, you will be limited in time, energy, sleep deprived brain power or resources to do anything other than the absolute most basic repairs. I can assure you something as simple as cutting 20cm off a chafed jib sheet and re tying it in 20 knots rolling from gunnel to gunnel in the dark whilst surging down 4m waves, is about the limit. Tightening a few bolts from inside the back locker, of course you have to empty it first, was another job at the limit of tolerable.
As always the most common problem overall was auto-helms. They are never tested or even built to do the job of ocean crossing. Not to mention the power they consume. Personally I think the only answer is to have a secondary system built in to switch to when the first one fails. We have the Aires and auto-helm. You can't start repairing the original if you are steering with it!!
Chafe. The pole ends nearly chafed through the sheets on several occasions. That one I hadn't thought of. The rest is obvious. If it rubs it will wear out. Prepare for it and think through what might happen if it breaks, e.g. consider lazy sheets, additional chafe protection.

Steph's wisdom?
Was it worth it? You bet!

PS There is a video of parts of the passage. Stu promises to edit it. Don't hold your breath.