Rum again


For all those people who were so disparaging about my penchant for Aldi’s £9.99 rum: a parting gift to myself as I leave the Caribbean.

The immigration officer just asked what was my next port of call? I had to say something, so I said, “Falmouth”.

“Falmouth Antigua?”

  • No, Falmouth UK.

We’ll see. It’s 3,500 miles. “Estimated time of arrival?”

July 21st.

We’ll definitely see about that…

4 Responses to Rum again

  • Hi John
    I was just reading about your health supplement and would like to receive some further information.

    Michael ( Sydney )

    When I was young I used to sail a locally Sydney designed Vaucluse Junior.

  • Happy sailing you mad bugger , who I may add is brave enough to do what others only dream of .

  • Lol.
    My mother tried to dose me with hot rum for a heavy cold when I was about 7. Can’t stand the smell of the stuff. Even in cooking or ice cream.

  • Fair winds and safe passage John.


I have the picture in front of me now. The intrepid explorer in the foothills of the Himalayas – his yak in the background.

Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s just me on the beach, posing with my folding bike before setting off to ride around Anegada.

Anegada is the most northerly of the Virgin Islands and the only one that is not volcanic. Instead it is a real coral island – a tiny bit of limestone poked out of the sea and lots and lots of pure white coral sand piled on top of it. For the cyclist, this offers one massive advantage: it is completely flat.

Georgetown in Grenada has such a steep hill that they had to dig a tunnel through  it – no mean feat 1800s. Most of the Caribbean is like that – up and down, rainforests and waterfalls.

Sailing from Virgin Gorda, the first thing you see of Anegada is the tops of the palm trees – and it’s only eight miles long unless you count the reef, which is most of it.

I pored over Google Maps. I could go clockwise, take my snorkel and flippers, start with Cow Wreck Bay, then the flamingoes on the 500 acres of shallow ponds. Down to East Point and Horseshoe Reef with its 300 shipwrecks – and that’s just the ones they know about.

Sixteen miles. I’ve done sixteen miles in a day before. Lunch in town or one of the beach bars…

It turned out to be not quite as simple as that. For one thing, Anegada’s roads are slabs of concrete like an old wartime runway. At least there wasn’t much traffic. After an hour I concluded that the islanders (there are only 315 of them) possessed only two cars – although, one of them may have been the same car going the other way.

But then, turning the corner to the north side of the island, the concrete began to disappear under a layer of sand – and this was coral sand. There’s a difference: proper British sand comes in grains. You could count them if you had the patience. Coral sand is more like a powder, the consistency talcum or chalk dust. I got off and pushed the rest of the way to Cow Wreck Bay where I walked straight into the water – wonderful not having to dip your to in to see if it’s warm enough. The water here is always between 28°C and 30°C.

And, no sooner had I put my head under than I came up with a conch. Imagine that! I was as pleased as punch. I told the barmaid in the Tipsy beach bar. She said it was pronounced “conk”. She also told me that Cow Wreck Bay got its name from a shipwreck in the early 1900s. The ship was carrying cow bones to be made into buttons. For years, they kept washing up on the beach.

One other thing I learned at the bar of the Tipsy was that I wasn’t going to get any further along the north coast. Sure there was a road marked on the map – but it was all sand and rocks. I would need a jeep. Besides, if I went back the other way, I could see the flamingos from the Lookout Point.

Actually, I couldn’t. But then I am notoriously unobservant. I was the only one of the diving party in the Red Sea who didn’t see the shark.

I didn’t get down to Horseshoe Reef either. It turns out, the only way is by boat and I certainly wasn’t taking Samsara down there – not after what the pilot book said about “numerous coral heads and tricky currents”. Still, I could go to Fisherman’s Wharf which involves cycling along a series of narrow concrete causeways between more flamingo ponds (but without flamingoes).

I knew I was getting close by the piles of conch shells at every turn. This is a tradition started by the indigenous Amerindian people who would pile up the empty shells to create artificial islands. Suddenly my conch didn’t seem so impressive – but at least I put it back without hooking the poor little fish out of it and turning him into conch ceviche.

I hadn’t been round  the island. I hadn’t even reached the end of it. There just wasn’t any more road. I turned back to town. Actually it’s called The Settlement and there isn’t much of that (how much can you expect with a population of 315). The Wonky Dog restaurant was closed – although there was the promise of happy hour, fresh lobster and live music later – and everywhere there were signs of what Hurricane Irma did to the place when she ran straight over it in 2017.

Hurricanes are not the only natural disasters the stalwart little population has to worry about. At intervals along the road were signs pointing to the Tsunami Evacuation Point – the highest point, even if it is only eight metres. After all, “Anegada” is the Spanish word for “Flooded”.

As I passed by the Flamingo Lookout for the second time, I was buzzed by a gaggle of scooters and yet another car. This was a party of Americans from Colorado who had chartered a catamaran and were “doing” the islands rather in the manner of the Hell’s Angels after a spell of Community Service.

I still couldn’t see any flamingos, although Moses told me there were about 1,500 of them on the far side. You could just see them through the telescope. I learned this – and the fact that his name was Moses – because he ended up giving me a lift the rest of the way, the roads having taken their toll on my back tyre.

So the expedition was a partial success – or a partial failure if you want to be despondent about it.

I chose to celebrate with lunch in Sid’s Beach Bar – but “Dinner Salad” rather than conch – ceviche or fritters.

3 Responses to Anegada


The definition of cruising, so they say, is: “Boat maintenance in exotic locations”. Lately, Instagram has been alive with the saga of New Zealand friends in Grenada who replaced their thrust bearing without taking the boat out of the water.

The final picture (in SCUBA gear with a screwdriver to tighten the anodes) was greeted with a wave of congratulations from around the world.

I was in awe – but then maintenance aboard Samsara tends to be rather more mundane. I have spent much of the day in the Virgin Islands with my head under the sink, trying to find out why the carpet was always wet.

Now, I dare say that readers who still have to go back to work on Monday will be horrified at the idea of carpet on a boat. The correct surface for the cabin sole is pine and holly stripes – immaculately varnished. I had that aboard Largo, and very fabulous it looked.

But I have been surprised to discover how many cruising boats have carpet – and there’s a good reason: If you walk around on varnish every day, you have to give it a new coat every couple of months – and then get off the boat for 24 hours to let it dry.

Also, carpet is not slippery when wet – and I thought mine was just to cover up the grotty lino…

Anyway, out came the detergent and the disinfectant and all the other plastic bottles which live in the most inaccessible locker on the boat – and sure enough, once I got the floor out, there was a good couple of litres of water down there. Fresh water, too – even though it was a bit brackish.

If I’d known about this when I was running out of water back in 2020, it would have kept me going for an extra couple of days.

Now the problem was getting rid of it: There were so many pipes, and it was at such an awkward angle that the big sponge wasn’t much help. Never mind, I had my handy hand pump.

I bought this on a whim on Amazon, and it’s never really been much good. For one thing, spending its life with its tubes coiled up at the bottom of the cockpit locker means that you can’t poke it down into small spaces where it’s needed. Obviously, I’d had this problem before because guess what was taped to the bottom: The forged and tested galvanized shackle I bought for the anchor chain before realising that it was too big for the bow roller.

I always wondered what had happened to it. I knew what had happened to its pin – that was weight on the pull-through cord for the clarinet (you need something that’s heavy but slim enough to slide through without getting caught on all the gubbins inside.)

It had always troubled me that if ever I should need a really strong shackle more than I needed a clean clarinet, I wouldn’t be able to find the rest of it.

And that wasn’t all that was down at the bottom of the cockpit locker. Have I mentioned that every boat has a secret place where stuff goes to hide – the really expensive snatch block that I hadn’t even used, the Leatherman Multi-tool that disappeared from the chart table into thin air…

Lately, they had been joined by the spout for the spare fuel cans. For the past year, I have been laboriously syphoning every time I ran out. Now, the mystery was solved: I don’t know how it is with yard-built boats, but their home-completed cousins tend to have cockpit lockers which are open to the bottom of the boat.

This is a better idea than it sounds – any water drains into the bilge.

So does a spout for a fuel can.

And if the boat spends long enough bouncing around on port tack, a spout will work its way over from the port cockpit locker to the starboard.

This was brilliant: two problems solved – and I hadn’t even started on the galley leak.

Actually, that was the easy part: I just had to find some way to stop the broken adjustable spout jumping off the water filter every time the foot pump increased the pressure.

I jammed a clothes peg behind it.

Now I expect congratulations from around the world.

8 Responses to Maintenance

  • Hi John,

    Re siphoning fro. Fuel cans, have you discovered jiggle pumps? they work really well…I use several times a week to do many 20 litree cans… get the about 3/4 inch size from AMAZON

  • I may ‘plagiarise’ this bril trick and start a thread on to Reader re ‘101 Uses For An Old Clothespeg’.
    The question is – should I credit JP, or would he not wish his reputation sullied by such boat-bodgery?

  • You can’t beat a wooden clothes peg ! Great idea…. Isn’t it interesting how we’ve gone to plastic ones, now likely back to wood because it’s better for the environment and they don’t get brittle & shatter … and you can use them
    To properly fix things

  • Wooden close pegs are essential boat gear. We use half a peg to stop the genoa cars rattling on their tracks on those all too frequent and annoying occasions when there’s little wind but a big swell (the port car is located inches above my head when in bed). Oh and of course – congratulations!

  • Perhaps the beginning of a new book ? 101 things to do with a clothes peg (other than the obvious) ? I trust you applied a little Gorilla glue to make permanent?

    • Wot??? Thereby rendering it useless for redeployment when the same clothes peg comes to the rescue to save the sinking yacht (or perhaps peg a sock out on the guard rail?) – please don’t over-engineer what is already a perfectly adequate solution to an engineering problem.

      I’m not sure how many congratulations you need, or from where, to qualify for “congratulations from around the world”, but you certainly get my congratulations from Pin Mill, Suffolk (Syntonic, Rival 32).