Tuesday, August 27, 2013


My norwegian phone number:  +47 41152200.  Photos from Norway and North Sea.

Twister in Bergen
Twister arrived Ebbesvik, Sotra (near Bergen), Norway the afternoon of Tuesday August 27 after a 4-day passage across The North Sea from Inverness, Scotland. We spent the better part of the first 24 hours becalmed, so since Bridget had a flight to catch in Norway, on day 2 we decided to set a course directly for Norway. After a bit of motoring, we finally found the southerly winds the GRIBs had been promising and the rest of the passage was incredibly pleasant (though the nights were a little chilly), even flying the A-sail for a good portion of the journey. The North Sea is littered with oil and gas platforms (the source of Norway's wealth) and we actually had to zig-zag a little to avoid some of them. It seems the North Sea is also full of Mackrell. We caught a few and also lost a few along the way.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Bridget's Take On The Caledonian Canal

Twister’s Adventures on the Caledonian Canal.

Tuesday morning, August 20, we start our way down the Caledonian Canal. The locks open at 8am so we head on into the first lock with 3 other boats including our friends Mark and Maria on their 27 foot Mare Liberum.  Lars met them in Tonga and I had met them in Durban, South Africa.  The locks take a little bit of practice to master smoothly tossing and holding lines as we go through the locks, but we get lots of practice as the first mile of the canal through Corpach has 9 locks including 7 locks back to back to back in what’s called Neptune’s Steps.  Each lock moves the boat probably about 2- 4 meters (6-12 ft).  The Caledonian Canal built in the early 1800s connects the east and west coast of Scotland running 66 splendid miles from Corpach to Inverness.  The canal is 30 miles man made canal that connects the 36 miles of 3 natural lochs, including world famous Loch Ness.  The first day in 10 hours we complete 20 miles, through 14 locks, lots of swing bridges and a sail across Loch Locky.  Scotland is lovely land for a sail with green hills, trees, and canal sections that are winding little rivers through lush forests.  We spend the night tied up on a wall in Fort Augustus with Mare Liberum.  We are at the top of 5 locks that will lower us to Loch Ness in the morning and we can see Loch Ness waiting in the distance.  Fort Augustus is a nice little town full of friendly folks.  We enjoy a dinner of fish and chips and haggis at a local pub.

Wednesday, August 21 we awake to a beautiful sunshiny morning! Amazing. We brew up some coffee and head into the first lock at 8am.  The locks are full with 7 boats and there is not enough wall space for everyone. Therefore, to fit us in we have Mark and Maria of Mare Liberum raft up to us.  The morning is gorgeous and warm.  We are able to be in t-shrits and smile at the sun.  Maria and I are on the lock wall walking the boats from lock to lock and Lars is on the boat fending off the wall if we get too close. Mark down in Mare Liberum cooks up the most delicious egg, bacon, and tomato sandwiches, which we manage to carry along. The simple things in life that seem so magical; coffee, sunshine, bacon, sailboats, good friends, and smiles!  There are plenty of tourist snapping photos as the boats head through the locks and Lars gives them a show by climbing Twister’s mast steps to the top in his Wellington knee-high rubber boots and boardshorts to get some photos himself of the views of the locks and Loch Ness.

After 5 locks we motor out onto Loch Ness, which is the largest (30 miles long) and a deepest (1000 ft) of the lochs.  The sunshine is not meant to last and after a few miles on the lake we head into some thick fog although from above a bit of sunshine still sneaks through.  We head on down the loch and Lars asks if I want to surf Loch Ness.  I’m hesitant, because I’m already a bit chilly and the loch temperature is 12C (53 F).  But, I tell Lars I’ll pull him behind Twister.  Lars pulls out a board and screws in the fins. To surf we surfed sat on the edge of the boat as the boat was underway and put the surfboard in the water under our feet, then stood and slowly worked one’s way along the boat with a line in hand until you are surfing behind Twister. Lars is incredibly successful and gets a long ride along Loch Ness and manages to pull himself back onto Twister with only his feet wet.  I’m up next and I’m not so good and end up falling all the way into Loch Ness and got a chance to paddle around on the board.  Lars picks me up and we continue on our 11 mile trip (about 2 hours) to our first Loch Ness stop at a Urchacht Castle, where supposedly where the monster hangs out.  We anchor both boats and everyone jumps in for a refreshingly chilly swim.  Lars and I wear our masks and snorkels, but no luck spotting Nessie.  On we travel down the length of the Loch and back into the canal for a sunny evening to our final destination on the Caledonian Canal, Inverness.
We arrive and have a little happy hour celebration in Twister’s cockpit with the local favourite Scotch Whyte & MacCay before heading into Inverness for an evening of Indian food and live music and a local pub.  Scotland is fully of interesting characters and we met a number of them on Wednesday evening. Lars carried his guitar and was requested to do some singing at the pub and he inspired a few others to play us some songs on his guitar. 
On Thursday morning we only have about a ½ mile of the canal to cover, which includes 5 locks.  We have now completed 28 of the 29 locks of the Caledonian Canal.  We tie up for a day of showers, laundry, water tank filling, and other little boat projects, so we are ready for the North Sea.  The evening is spent sharing a meal and great conversation in the cockpit with Mark and Maria.  We have a lovely sunset and a clear night with a nearly full moon and stars shining down. Also, across the canal we watch as folks let a large Chinese lantern float away into the night sky.

Today Friday, August 23 we head on toward the Shetland Islands (about 200 miles) on our way to Bergen, Norway (another 200 miles).  The GRIBs look good so on we go.

To The Shetland Islands

Since I was originally planning to be in the South Shetland Islands (Antarctica) now, I thought it appropriate to sail to the original Shetland Islands on our way to Norway. We plan to depart Inverness this afternoon with the high tide and hope to arrive The Shetland Islands Sunday the 25th. We'll only spend one day there before pressing on to Bergen Norway where we hope to arrive Wednesday the 28th of August.

Here are some photos from the UK.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Troon To Corpach To Inverness

Twister departed Troon the afternoon of Friday the 16th of August with Bridget and LT aboard. As we rounded the Kintyre Peninsula the wind freshened to 30+ knots and veered to the south/southwest.  Fortunately the next 30 miles were nearly dead downwind and Ireland prevented a big swell reaching us. We enjoyed about an hour beating into 40 knot winds as we tacked into the Sound Of Islay (which separates the islands of Jura and Islay, both famous for their distilleries).  

Once inside the sound, we had flat waters and 15 knots of wind as we glided past one distillery and then another. We were tempted to anchor and ask for a tour but decided to press on to Corpach and the southwestern entrance to The Caledonian Canal. Coming out the northern end of The Sound Of Islay, we found the wind had eased a bit and the remaining 60 or so miles to Corpach were smooth sailing. Arriving at first light Sunday the 18th, we tied up to a pontoon and got a couple of hours of sleep before the lockmaster opened the first lock and let us into the canal. In Corpach/Fort William we made friends and sampled whiskeys at the nearest pub, and hiked Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in The British Isles at 1344 meters).  Mark and Maria on Mare Liberum arrived Corpach Monday night, and Tuesday morning we started together our journey along The Caledonian Canal.  
Twister in The Caledonian Canal

View From Ben Nevis

Today which Wednesday the 21st, finds us motorsailing along Loch Ness (we are keeping our eyes peeled). We plan to anchor by Urquhart Castle, have a swim and look at the castle before proceeding to Inverness this evening. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

To Corpach

Twister arrived Troon, Scotland the afternoon of Wednesday the 14th less than an hour after Bridget. After a night out with Bridgtet and me in Troon, Jo headed back to England. Yesterday was mostly dedicated to fixing the fuel pump on Twister's diesel engine. I was surprised and pleased to find that I could removed the pump without pulling out the engine. Once out, it was easy to replace the leaky diaphragm. I was also a little surprised that the engine ran without problems after I put the pump back on. 

Today it's Friday the 16th and Bridget and I will be departing Troon around 1600, with destination Corpach where the Caledonian Canal begins. It's about 170 miles, so we'll probably arrive Sunday morning. A gale warning has just been issued, so it could be a wet and bumpy ride. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Falmouth to Padstow to Troon

Departed Falmouth Wednesday morning and arrived Padstow (on the other side of Cornwall) 24 hours (almost to the minute) later, right at high tide. Timing is important in these parts as tides are big and most harbors are shallow. Today it was a 6 meter difference between low and high tide. The inner harbor where Twister is now rafted to two other sailboats is only acessible the for two hours either side of high tide (less on neap tides). The rest of the time a gate holds the water in and the boats afloat--otherwise it would dry out well before low tide.

Padstow was a quaint little fishing village about 50 years ago, I reckon. Today it's mainly a tourist attraction, though some fishing boats still call Padstow home. Mooring in the inner harbor is a bit like being in a fish bowl with hundreds of tourists milling about, looking at the boats, and, strangely, fishing for the filthy little harbor crabs which they then throw back.

Friday and Saturday Gary of La Cueca fame (whom I first met in Rangiroa in French Polynesia and several ports thereafter and who sailed with me on Twister from New Zealand back to Fiji) and Tamsin came over from London and Isle of Wight to visit me in Padstow. We had a lovely evening with dinner and wine on Twister Friday. Saturday we took the ferry across the estuary to Polzeath (well to Rock, nearby, to Polzeath by car) where we had a nice day at the beach with some more friends, Ian and Sophie. Gary seems to be adjusting well to life on land. Check out some very good photos from La Cueca's Pacific crossing here (I think mostly taken by Rory who was co-captain with Gary on La Cueca).

Sunday morning Twister departed Padstow with new crew: Jo, whom I met in New Zealand but who is back home in the UK now, has got the sailing bug and wanted to sail with Twister to get a taste of passage-making in a small boat.

Wedneseday the 14th 1100 UTC finds us cruising along The Firth Of Clyde. We are ca 25 miles from Troon, Scotland where Jo will get off and Bridget will get on. Last night, becalmed in The Irish Sea, we started the engine. I soon noticed the familiar smell of diesel. Opening the engine compartment, I found diesel dripping (somewhere between dripping and pouring) from the fuel pump at a good rate, so we had to kill the engine. Consulting some manuals leads me to believe that the diaphragm in the fuel pump is the culprit. The rest of the night we ghosted along at 1 to 2 knots up the Irish Sea with Northern Irleland to our left and The Isle Of Man to our right. This morning, the wind returned and since then we've been averaging 5.5 knots in the southerly breeze. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Laura with Helford River in background
My UK phone:  +44 (0) 7904149790. Call anytime (if calling from outside UK, omit the 0 in parentheses).

Twister remains anchored in Falmouth where I've been relaxing and sampling some local ales. My friends Stu and Laura (whom I met in Cocos Keeling and saw again at Reunion Island and Richard's Bay, South Africa. They completed a circumnavigation earlier this year, crewing on several boats) were kind enough to come over from Plymouth, where they live, and show me around this weekend. Saturday we enjoyed some delicious mussels at a pub overlooking The Helford River a few miles from Falmouth. I plan to depart Falmouth Wednesday morning and sail to Padstow on the northwest Cornish coast, possibly stopping at Isles Of Scilly on the way. Some of you may have noticed that I'm behind the schedule I posted earlier in the year (I should be in Norway by now). As a result, I've had to decline my job with AMLR (antarctic research cruise) this year. Now my aim is to arrive Bergen, Norway by the end of August, which gives me a few weeks to explore the British Isles. From Padstow the plan is to sail to the SE corner of Ireland, Isle Of Man, then perhaps directly to Fort William where the Caledonian Canal begins. The Caledonian Canal will take Twister to Inverness and The North Sea. From there it's a straight shot to Bergen (with the option of heading north to The Shetland Islands first).