Something completely different

Two weeks of January we spent in Scotland. Some people would say, January? Fat chance of rain, perhaps snow, but miserable weather anyway. Much like the summer but with low temperatures.  But everything is in the eyes of the beholder. First week was predominantly overcast, some rain, some very bright days and about 5 degrees. The second week was the same but with snow instead of rain, very beautiful.  Ergo, we spent two very enjoyable weeks and finished a nice bottle of Whiskey while at it.

First we visited Edinburgh for three days. We had a hotel mid-town, having all the nice spots on walking distance. The pub food we had was not great but Jamie Oliver down town was much better. Also we learned at the castle that the word moccasin (footwear) is not derived from native Indians but comes from the Scottish folks who moved to North America. Moccasin is phonetic for “my foot” (mo chas) but then in Scottish slang, so we were told! Just so you know too.

Our first cottage was in a nature reserve on top of Lochgoilhead, about an hour and a half drive north of Glasgow. To get there we rented a ADW (All Wheel Drive) Volvo CX60, which is a great car. Driving on the wrong side of the road remains a challenge though. My wife kept reminding me to look right and drive left. It was necessary.

The cottage was mainly heated with a woodstove so I could enjoy my daily pyromaniac fun with lighting the stove. After that the cottage was warm and cozy. We hiked everyday at least two hours. The occasional rain shower did not hinder us at all. Through the big windows we had a view which we could be looking at whole day. In the mornings two stacks (deer’s) walk just by to say hello. Birds where visiting our bird food and gave us a nice spectacle to start the day with.

The second week we drove to Skye with much more determination once I was accustomed to driving this big car. Our drive through the highlands was magnificent. The enormous  expanse of the highlands are almost unlike Europe. Great that we still have this kind of nature close by. White caped mountains and deserted valleys are alternate with forest and lochs. Driving through this splendor is a great joy. We arrived late that day on Skye where we stayed in another beautiful cottage.

The weather however turned cold and snow was falling. We had everyday a weather alert “yellow”, which meant that possibility of ice accidents and getting snowed in are possible. Each day we checked the weather, also for the 4,5 hours ride back to Edinburgh under normal weather conditions. Nevertheless, we hiked each day but not to high up in the mountains. However, every drive was an adventure on its own. The roads on Skye are not to big anyway, but getting smaller and smaller once you get closer to your hiking area and evidently with snow more difficult to navigate. Good for us we had our AWD to pull us up the hill through the snowy single track roads.

Now we are back from our holiday in Scotland. What up now? Well, next week I will be back on the Canary Islands to prepare my boat for the second part along the Atlantic Islands!

How to sail 800 miles against the predominant wind?

I thoroughly enjoyed been home again with my wife. Enjoying the ordinary things in live which I started to miss during my voyage towards Cape Verde. Just the ability to wear cloths and enjoy the rain and the cold. Enjoying the autumn in the forests. Just sitting in front of the TV in my comfortable chair. Having dinner with my wife and visit family and friends together. Walk around in my birth and home city of Amsterdam.




I also found back a good friend from university I had lost sight off. LinkedIn is sometimes good for that too. We both spends several occasions to bridge the time between.  Last time we when to the maritime museum in Amsterdam. A great place to visit and the virtual reality tour above Amsterdam in the golden age is fantastic.

Have been inspired which that, I also visited friends who moved to France 12 years ago. I had not seen them since. Great to see that real friendships come deal with that. We had a wonderful time in France. Walked the dog, had good food and drinks and a feel for life in rural France. I went there by train (a fast one) which was great also. Another way to travel and much greener that flying.

I celebrated new year in Amsterdam among family and awed about the vandalism which seems to go along it. This car burned out completely, most likely not by accident. In The Netherlands we have the custom of lighting fireworks ourselves. Great fun it was but nowadays some people buy illegal fireworks which often more resemble the grenades they use in war zones.  Of course, each year eyes and parts of limbs get lost while lighting fireworks and even lives. Perhaps it is time to review this tradition.

Anyway, being home I found it remarkable to find myself in this position after looking forward for three year to sail to Cape Horn and finally aborting the whole adventure half way in Cape Verde to come home. Nevertheless, that was what I wanted and the decision still feels good. Many friends and family have commented on my decision in very positive terms. Many family and friends where happy I took the courage (which seems to be necessary for such a decision) to listen to my feelings and alter my plans accordingly.

Of course, it was a bold decision to sail to Cape Verde having made the decision already not to continue to Cape Horn. Basically, many sailors will argue with right that once on the conveyor belt downwind to Cape Verde, the only way to get back to Europe is by crossing the Atlantic to the Carib. The north east wind, mostly around 20 or more knots, make it impossible to return back for almost 800 miles towards the Canary Islands. However, that was just what I did. My wife was expecting me there and I was looking forward being together again.

But I did not leave with ample warnings and preparation. With the experience of doing so, I have learnt at least three prerequisites necessary to sail against the predominant North Easter winds in these latitudes.

First you have to find a period of moderate winds and preferably shifting winds to take advantage of. Ruud Kattenberg, head editor of the famous Dutch sailing e-magazine, had offered to do the forecasting during my trip. He had learnt about the good windward characteristics of my boat during the months sailing towards Cape Verde and he predicted that the way back should be possible within ten days.

That brings me with the second lesson. You need a boat which will sail good windward. The Dutch design Victoire (1987) from Koopmans is a boat which will do that. Of Course, I made sure the bottom of my boat was cleaned so to increase speed and I had removed my anchor from the bow to reduce weight and friction during sea’s coming over the bow.

Third lesson for my was to make sure I had help sailing back. Beating the wind can be a exhausting endeavor which strains your spirits. So I had my friend Wim accompany me during the trip back, just in case. With all, we sailed back within eight days! A very good accomplishment indeed.

However, after been back home now for several months the itch started again. I want to be sailing again!