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Date: 24 Mar 2011 01:08:00
Title: Keep calm and carry on

17:09.193 N 62:37.923 W
If I had known what would happen today, before we set off, I would probably have tied the skipper to the mast and booked into a hotel for a couple of days. . . . .

We decided to leave around 6.30am and carry on up , possibly to Monteserrat, but if the conditions were unsuitable to anchor there, we would still have time to cover the further 35 nm to Nevis.
It all started with the baguette and croissants we had ordered. They were due to arrive before 6.30, we had the coffee made ready, at 7am we could wait no longer and pulled up the anchor. just as we turned to put the sail up our breakfast arrived! too good to miss, we managed a mid sea exchange of Euros for edibles. .. and jolly good it was too.

The sailing started well and we got very excited when we spotted more whale blows, further away this time but very distinguishable.
Montserrat has an active volcano and there is a large exclusion zone in the southern half of the island. As we sailed past we see the water vapour billowing out of the peak. Huge lava flows were visible from several miles out, which had extended the shore line by several hundreds of metres.
The first eruption of mount Soufriere in 1995 destroyed the capital and two thirds of the population left. In 2006 the activity started again the last eruption being in 2008.
There was an eiery stillness about the place as we sailed up the east coast. . .The wind was a bit flukey. We gave the top of the island a wide berth as the charts read' incomplete surveys', and popped the engine on to get past the northern tip
My nose is very sensitive ( should have been a wine connoisseur) and I told the captain that I could smell a whiff of burning rubber. . The engine compartment was duly inspected and then we discovered that the key fob had got jammed, which meant that the key had been in start position continually since we had turned the engine on, hence the smell!

It was decision time, Montserrat, or another 35miles to Nevis? (this would possibly mean arriving in the dark) A large swell was building from the north, not good for anchoring in Montserrat, we both had a bad feeling about going there , then I spotted a fishing float not just one but three all joined together by heavy rope, just waiting to get wrapped round an unsuspecting propeller! We put the engine into neutral and spent the next 20 minutes avoiding line after line of joined up floats,. Decision made, we were going to Nevis!
The engine off now ,we get the cruising chute out , our big colourful light wind sail, the perfect way to get the wind to pick up so you have to put it away again , works every time. .
We really are in new territory now, heading north of our original land fall for the first time!
The next few hours are brilliant, we romp along at 7 + kts for several hours, we should arrive by sunset with any luck!
We pass close by the Big rock of Redonda, a Kingdom with a colourful past, the island is so steep it would be impossible to sit on a throne anywhere on this Kingdom, but never the less it has had a string of rather unconventional rulers in the past 200 years. The last King , Bob the Bald, mounted an expedition to Redonda on April lst 1998 with 16 loyal subjects, and appointed many nobles to the realm.. . .
As we approach the southern shores of Nevis we are still bobbing along at 6kts, all is looking good. . .

A few days ago Bob and I were sitting in our cockpit enjoying a cup of tea, when a very pretty gaff rigged boat came in to the bay and anchored under sail. We were both mesmerized by this display of skill, so cool! Corr I'd love to try that one day Bob! Yer one day , its even more impressive when you manage to pick up a mooring buoy under sail, that takes real skill!!

Sorry I digress,. . . Nevis has 100 mooring buoys, which you must use if you are under 90ft. With our destination insight the wind drops . still a mile away we are in 14 mtres of water, wow this is amazing, such a lovely view of the islands, we drift along enjoying the moment, as the light begins to fade we squeeze the last few kts out of the sails before turning the engine on. . . . . . We have always had total confidence in our engine, turn the key , first time it always starts, without question, always, . . . . . .
The reassuring rumble as the engine rolls into action . .silence . .. It takes a few moments to realize what's happening, Bob stops to think, we are in plenty of safe ,clear open water. . . 'What if's' hurtle through my mind at record speed. No engine, no wind, no light no power = no control , no boat..
At times like this good looks and a sense of humor are important assets for a captain. . We conjure up enough wind to tack and tack and tack, moving away from ferry routes and fishing boats. We turn on the AIS, there's a floating gin palace inline with our next tack.. . . at 6 kts it will pass in front of us, no problem. . it slows down, 5,4,3,2kts then decides to turn, b-----r, Nerves of steel, we hold our course, the wind gently carries on playing with our sails, we just make out some moored boats ahead. I go to the bow, armed with the TKMAX lantern, Bob works the sail ,all is quite, apart from the thumping hearts. . . . Bob gives the signal to prepare to drop anchor as he slows the boat down, slowly , slowly , DROP. . . The anchor is stuck. . . I kick it hard ,before I remember my injured foot. In response to my screams,Bob runs forward and kicks it harder, we are still moving forward as the chain pays out. . . .we swing round. . . and back. . . and round. . .and back. . and stop . ..we are safe for now . . .. Our first anchoring under sail!

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