After a week or two, food assumes an importance far greater than mere sustenance. Read any account of the great singlehanded voyages, and you will find references to curry (Knox-Johnston), plums and cheese (Slocum), Worcestershire Sauce (Thompson).

It was halfway through Pete Goss’s Close to the Wind and finding him desperately looking forward to an alternative to his freeze-dried diet (any alternative to his freeze-dried diet) that I decided I just had to try this Huel stuff.

It will be a long time before I attempt a voyage long enough to call for freeze-dried victuals, but I always imagined them to be full of artificial colouring and E-numbers, and besides, I’ve now gone vegan (except for the other day in St Malo when I found myself ordering the Plateau de fruits de mer).

I started looking into this meal replacement stuff. I read reviews (mixed). I read through the ingredients (very mixed).

Naturally, the Facebook algorithm picked up on all this in the same way that it calculates my age, adds my obsession with not dying, multiplies it by the occasional click on TikTok and feeds me a diet of prostate preparations and Asian brides.

So, once I stopped at Conwy for the big refit and could be reasonably sure of mail-order parcels catching up with me, I spent a happy hour on the Huel website. This is necessary because they won’t let you buy just a bag – you have to buy a whole box. By the time I had finished, had considered Cinamnmnon Swirl and Tomato & Herb, and compared Mac & Cheeze to Thai Green Curry, my credit card was lighter by £87, and the packets locker was full again.

Within seconds, an email: My order was being prepared. I could hardly wait – especially when the DPD app beeped with the excitement that my parcel would be arriving the very next day. I needn’t have waited. I could have had it delivered to Torquay or Hamble. Heavens, it would even have reached me in Bembridge.

In fact, it arrived in the Conwy marina office just after breakfast (damn, I could have had it for breakfast). Instead, I would replace lunch with a coffee shake. I think it was the ceremony that appealed: They give you a special bottle with Huel written on it with your first consignment. Come to that, they give you a special T-shirt to wear while you’re shaking it up – but it was pouring with rain, and I was splashing about the place in my Guy Cottens.

With great care and only a little more excitement, I added the water up to the mark and added two scoops of the powder. I awarded myself two scoops. I reckoned the carrot and kidney bean sandwich with mayonnaise, HP sauce and beetroot   which it was replacing amounted to at least 400calories.

It did taste of coffee – cold coffee, of course – and with the consistency and sweetness of a milkshake. It was not unpleasant. I know that the average gourmet – even the gourmet with a busy modern lifestyle that does not permit a Parisian two-hour lunch break – might expect more than a milkshake, but the idea of getting 26 essential nutrients down your neck in three minutes was a novelty that could not to be denied.

There was only one problem. As soon as the bottle was empty, I looked around for lunch.

This was not supposed to happen. What about those 400 calories? What about “keeping me going through my busy day” (taking down the headlining in the loo and disconnecting all the wiring ready for the mast to come down). I was damned if I was going to make a sandwich now.

I had a mince pie.

Then a digestive biscuit.

And a cup of mocha with a spoonful of sugar.

I don’t know whether it was this, but sometime around three o’clock, I began to feel distinctly queasy.

And dinner came early. Rather in the manner of my Parisian counterpart, I opened up the packets locker and perused my menu. I could have Mexican Chilli or go for the Chick’n & Mushroom. In the end, I opted for Cajun Pasta, only because it was the one with its picture in the brochure, with mixed peppers, sweetcorn and “a kick of cayenne pepper and paprika”. I must say it did look good – rather in the same way that the photographs outside restaurants on the Costa Brava always look so good.

I doled out two scoops into a bowl. I added 200ml of boiling water (I measured it out exactly). I covered the bowl and allowed my cajun pasta to cook while retaining the vitamins which might otherwise escape with the steam.

It tasted of cajun pasta. It was not unpleasant.

I looked around for dinner.

This was ridiculous. It was lunch all over again. I decided it was my fault – after all, I’m the one who goes out for tapas and then says: “Right, where shall we go for dinner?”

The pub just across from the marina office does a passable vegetarian burger (and pre-mixed cocktails on draught,  for heaven’s sake) but that would be flying in the face of the Huel corporation’s much-vaunted economic principles: each meal costs only £2.66.

Except if you do what I did. I mixed up another bowl.

And then had a mince pie.

And three digestive biscuits.

After that, I had to have a lie-down.

I woke up at four in the morning and decided the whole thing had been a bad idea. I still had the unopened bag of Mexican Chilli – and the Chick’n & Mushroom. I would put them on eBay (I have). I would get up and write a blog post about my experience. I could save others from making the same mistake. If I had read something like this, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted £87 and half a night’s sleep on the experiment.

Although I know my curiosity would still have got the better of me.

If it gets the better of you, there’s a bag for sale on eBay (actually, there are a lot of bags for sale on eBay).

Just make sure you have some mince pies handy.


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People kept asking if I would do a video tour of Samsara. It wasn’t that I was trying to hide anything, but rather I couldn’t work out how to do it while holding the phone in one hand. Then last week, my son Hugo came to join me in Jersey, and we ended up in St Malo and the River Rance – where a windless and sunny morning provided the perfect opportunity.

You can find it on the Oldmansailing YouTube channel – I’ll add the link below. However, I should mention here the one thing I forgot to include – twings (no, I didn’t know what they were either).

For years aboard Largo,  I  had struggled to find a way of adjusting the genoa cars without getting wet. In the end. The mistake I made was trying to move the cars remotely. All I needed was leave them where they were and add a pair of twings.

A twing (don’t you just love the name?) is a ring around a sheet and a line to pull it down – so adjusting the angle of pull. With mine, the lines go forward to a redundant deck fitting and then back to a pair of jammers in the cockpit. All I have to do is pull them in before I start winching the sheet – and then let them out until I’m happy with the set of the sail. It’s cheap. It’s simple – and it works.




Meanwhile, here’s the rest of the tour:

5 Responses to Twings

  • Hi John,

    thanks for your great articles, always a good read.

    The sheet lead adjusters you call TWINGS were very common on 1960’s racing dinghies – known as ‘ Barber Haulers ‘ – I still use them when required on my Anderson 22 cruiser / racer.

  • Twings have only got better.

  • John thanks for the tour and the twing idea. I find the trisail stay very interesting, I have not seen one before, only mast tracks. A Google search did not turn out any usable return. Would you be able to provide some information, as how the top and bottom are connected, length and diameter, and your comments on the usage, etc. Much appreciated.

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This is going to be a “Think Piece”.

A Think Piece – from my old newspaper days – was when something significant happened, and the editor needed to give it the appropriate amount of space but had run out of facts to put in it. All that was left were “Thoughts” – and very often, I was the one who had to think them up – and jolly hard it was, sometimes.

This time, the thoughts came battering at my door. I had just returned from lunch with a pair of long-lost cousins (lost for 20 years and 50 years, respectively – so you will forgive the bottle of wine which I seemed to have all to myself). Anyway, there I was, lying on the bunk attempting to sleep it off when all I could think of was Guy de Boer.

He was a competitor in the Golden Globe Singlehanded Round the World Race. If you’re following this blog, you probably know all about it: The main point is that it is a race without electronic navigation. The competitors have to rely on sextants and compasses and clockwork alarms to make sure they know where they are and stick their head out from time to time to make sure they’re not going to bump into anything.

And last night, 13 days after setting off from Les Sables d’Olonne in western France, American Guy de Boer bumped into the island of Fuerteventura in the Canaries.

It is every solo sailor’s nightmare. Those parts of the internet that pay attention to this sort of thing are alive with pictures of his boat Spirit aground in the surf – alongside comments that everyone is so glad the Spanish rescue service managed to get him off safely. Now there are hopes that the boat may yet be salvaged and sail again.

No one is indelicate enough to ask how it happened – no more than they have asked what were the “personal reasons” that caused fellow competitor Edward Walentoynowicz to retire after less than a week – and that after two years of preparation at the cost of most people’s life savings.

As the remaining 14 skippers press on towards Cape Town and on from there for a total of 30,000 miles (call it somewhere between 200 and 300 days), singlehanders all over the world are thinking: It could have been me.

We all know the golden rule: You work out how far you are from the shore. You calculate how long it would take you to reach it if the wind should change. If your windvane, as faithfully as ever, should turn you in the direction of the rocks. If, come to that, you might even speed up a bit and get there sooner…

So you set your alarm accordingly – and the second alarm in case the first doesn’t work or you just sleep through it.

Then add to this the fact that in the Golden Globe, you don’t know precisely where you are because you don’t have a friendly readout to tell you. Instead, there is just a pencil mark on the chart a couple of hours ago – and that was an update from a couple of hours before that – based on distance and compass course, corrected somewhat haphazardly for leeway and current…

And, be honest, how many of us have woken with our hearts in our mouths, finding ourselves heading straight for the shore? I did it only this week, sailing from Jersey to the Solent. The Navionics track shows me clearly going backwards towards Les Trois Grunes. The boat had tacked herself, the tide was running against me, and I had the alarm set for 20 minutes. OK, so that was plenty. I never came closer than three miles. But what if I hadn’t woken up? What if I had drowsily hit the “dismiss” button on the phone and rolled over, gone back to sleep while the boat – neatly hove-to – slid sideways to disaster?

Foul tide, headwind – and the boat tacks herself while you’re asleep…

What if, for heaven’s sake, I had been forced to rely on a tin alarm clock and thought I had wound it up when I hadn’t – or just set it wrongly? Show me anyone who hasn’t turned up late for work, claiming they slept through the alarm.

Now try telling that to the Spanish Coastguard when your boat is on her side with the breakers pushing her further and further up the beach.

It could happen to any of us. It really could.

Of course, that is the appeal. Who would bother to do this sort of thing if there wasn’t a frisson of danger? It’s like hang-gliding or climbing Everest, or walking across the Arctic. It’s bad enough that the organisers of such races are forced by their insurers to insist on thousands of pounds worth of safety equipment (including two lifebuoys – you’re expected to climb back on so you can throw them to yourself). The competitors have already decided to take the risk.

But I bet they were thinking they would meet their end being pitchpoled off Cape Horn; the boat smashed open by a wave they would hear coming like an express train, the floating container – just falling over the side…

Yet, to run onto a beach after less than 1,500 miles – nobody thinks that is going to happen to them.

The fate of Guy de Boer, a massively experienced sailor who had thought he had covered every eventuality and Spirit, meticulously prepared and ready for anything the ocean could throw at her, just shows that singlehanded sailing and pre-conceived notions make poor bedfellows.

One Response to Shipwreck

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A new book – out today!


When I returned to the UK from the Caribbean, people asked: “Did you have a good trip?”
And I said: “Yes, lovely, thanks.”
Because it was – but it was more than that. As with any voyage, it had its own special character – the moments that will remain in the memory forever (and others which are probably best forgotten).
Following on from the interest in my lockdown cruise, which led to the Old Man Sailing book, I found myself wondering whether people might like to read about this as well.
I had no idea if it would be any good – after all, there were no moments of drama, nothing important broke, nobody ended up getting rescued. It was just… ordinary. And yet, what came out of those 44 days and 3,437miles was a sort of stream of consciousness – everything from random thoughts that popped into my head because, apparently, there was nothing else in there, to what I ate and read and listened to…
At one point, I appear to have made a pet of a baby Portuguese Man o’ War. I called him Arnold – remember this was six weeks with no contact with the shore; no satphone, no high-frequency radio, no emergency beacon. No news of Boris Johnson’s downfall, come to that.
And yet, when I read it through, it seemed to be anything but dull. I stared at the words on the screen and remember saying out loud and unexpectedly: “D’you know, this is rather good…”
(There was no one to contradict me.)
So, now it is out there for the world to judge – or at least the world of Amazon – it is available as a Kindle edition and also in paperback – just a little book with a small price.
As you will see, it is called “The Voyage” with the subtitle: “#1: BVIs to Falmouth.” If it’s a success, I could write #2: Canaries to the Bahamas – maybe even #3: Panama to the Marquesas. This thing could run and run…
I would be most interested in seeing what you think of it – don’t forget to leave a review.
Otherwise, there’ll be no stopping me.

13 Responses to A new book – out today!

  • I read Old Man Sailing, then The Voyage and now reading The Good Stuff book one with book two ready to read next. So easy to enjoy even for a landlubber like me John. Please don’t stop.

  • John – you have a gentle humour and lightness of touch which is always very enjoyable to read. I’ve just ordered “The Voyage #1” and look forward to finding it waiting on my doormat when I get back…from my own (rather more modest) voyage from Plymouth to the Isles of Scilly and back. Best wishes, George (SV Good Report)

  • You cach me when I’m in need of some displacement activity. The ‘free read’ got me out of sweeping the early leaf-fall today. Thanks, John. Ordered. The book should turn up later this week….

  • Expect we’d better then. Hope it’s good for a fiver.. and what about a YouTube tour of the boat? Tips and tricks from a life on the ocean?

    • Do you know what…. I bet for a fiver this book will be worth a hundred times that minimum is a wealth of info and going by what we’ve already read then who needs a boat tour we have the full picture from John’s excellent and at some times hilarious wording…. crack on John with the rest you deserve the royalties sir!

  • Good to hear you have a new book John! Looking forward to another good read. But it begs the question- why the end (book 1) was done before the beginning?

  • Just off to buy this new book on Amazon and to be honest you have a style that is comfortable and unforced so if there are more spin offs I will buy
    Keep up the good work because vicarious it may be but it is as close as most of us will get to those places

  • Thank John. I’ll download and enjoy!

  • I shall clear a space in my bookcase for the complete series.

  • I’m ordering it now !
    Read your previous books and loved them.
    Keep sailing and writing

  • Wonderful. I’ll be in touch.


  • I’ve enjoyed your previous books…looking forward to reading this one….keep em coming

  • Thanks John. Heading over to purchase. Ron

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It is five o’clock in the morning, and I have just woken up to hear the wind charger in full cry as the boat jumps off a wave and the phone joins me in bed, painfully.

Well, I won’t need the alarm now, will I?

This is what you get for promising your 15-year-old grandson you will sail from Falmouth to Jersey before the end of the school holidays.

So far, it has taken 39 hours against the wind, and now we are in that nasty little triangle between the Roches Douvres, Les Minquiers and the iron-bound south coast of Jersey. The cosy marina in St Helier might as well be on the moon.

Last night before dinner, I set full sail in the hope that we might catch the morning tide off La Corbiere, but that’s not going to happen now. Meanwhile, it’s time to put the reef back in.

Singlehanders spend a lot of time reefing (partly because there’s nobody else to do it). Every time I open Facebook, there’s another one crowing about how they have all lines led back to the cockpit and how safe this makes it.

But as I climbed into my oilies to go on deck (two minutes), I decided I wasn’t so sure.

Fast-forward another twelve minutes (I have a fetish about timing things), and I am hanging up the oilies to drip into the shower tray, but I can’t go back to bed because my head’s still wet from washing off the salt and nobody likes a wet pillow.

So instead, I am going to sit up and pose the question: Would it really have been better if I could have nipped out in my jim-jams and conducted the whole business under cover of the spray hood?

Think about it:  If reefing involves going on deck every time, you get pretty used to being out there in heavy weather. I get more used to it than most because of the way my reefing system is set up. I think it must have been thought out by more than one person: After putting the cringle on the horn at the mast, I have to come back to the cockpit and make up the halyard  – and then go back again to take in the pennants. It’s a lot of clambering about and holding on.

Is it unsafe – or does it make me more safe?

It would be tempting fate to suggest I know the answer.

If the boat arrives in Jersey without me, we’ll know.

2 Responses to Reefing

  • We prefer reefing by the mast.
    The boat we had before our present one had all lines led back to the cockpit.
    Too much friction and a lot of rope under the sprayhood.
    Keep it simple is our motto.

  • The more basic (or thoroughly tested) the system the closer foolproof and fail safe it may be, and out of the spray hood your senses work better, if wetter

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The very big anchor

This was being sensible: Tom Fisher was on his way over for the Yealm in Bonny. The first time I met Tom for a drink, we sat up over the rum bottle until three in the morning.

Add to that Connor Brosan and Alan Laine on their way from Salcombe in Feeling Groovy, and obviously it would be better if I did not try and row back to the boat at closing time without falling in. Just this once, I would fork out the £38 for a berth in the Haven marina.

I must say this hurt a bit because it was only the day before that the smart new harbourmaster’s launch came alongside and the harbourmaster’s polite assistant had informed me that no longer could I anchor for no charge in my favourite spot (it had been my favourite spot since about 1979.) Now the harbour commissioners wanted to charge me £10 a night for it.

While my mouth was working with nothing coming out, he added that, if I liked, I could pay for a year’s harbour dues instead: £10 a metre – £97 until April.

It seemed a lot, but I would be able to use the showers and launderette at the marina. I could land at the dinghy pontoon instead of climbing the ladder at Customs House Quay (and wading through the mud to get back in the water at low tide). Hey, I could fill the water cans with the marina hose and get my Amazon parcels sent to the Harbour Office…

I paid the £97 and rather looked forward to getting my money’s worth. Then I set about winching up the anchor. That was when things started to go wrong. It wouldn’t come. I couldn’t understand this. I had anchored here countless times before – that was why I hadn’t bothered to buoy the thing.

Although, now I came to think about it; this wasn’t my favourite spot after all – not the one marked by the anchor symbol on the Navionics app. Another boat had pinched that. I had been obliged to pick a spot a little further over towards the Falmouth side and a little closer to the mooring field – a spot where there was something on the bottom fouling my chain: I could raise about ten metres, and then the windlass started straining and making screeching noises. There was still 25metres down there, so it must be the chain that was fouled, not the anchor (so at least I had the satisfaction of knowing that an anchor buoy wouldn’t have helped, anyway.)

I did the obvious thing: I slackened off the chain and drove around it – first one way and then the other. It made no difference. Eventually, the windlass went on strike (well, the thermal cut-out stopped it burning itself out). I pulled by hand. Something shifted. The chain came in with a rush, and I had to pick myself up off the deck with a bump on the back of my head the size of a pigeon’s egg.

Then the chain jammed again.

There was nothing for it. I pulled out the phone and started Googling “Divers in Falmouth”. There were plenty of dive centres. They all said they weren’t insured for anchor recovery. I phoned Seawide Services, commercial divers “subsea welding, cutting and repair work”. They could offer a five-man dive team at £600 an hour.

Alternatively, they could send a workboat with a winch. The workboat arrived. It was enormous. The winch was enormous. The chain hummed under the strain. I stood clear. The workboat heeled alarmingly. This wasn’t going to work.

I turned to Facebook: Did anyone know of a diver in Falmouth? Of course, I had to explain why – which meant the advice came in thick and fast, everything from “drive around it” (tried that) to “get a mask” – I did think about it. I even have a wetsuit. But in five metres, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay down there long enough to do anything useful.

Seawide services called back. A couple of their lads had volunteered their own time for £200. I grabbed at it.

Sure enough, two young men turned up in another workboat. One of them climbed into a drysuit and disappeared over the side. Five minutes later, he came up to report that my chain was wrapped around the biggest anchor he had ever seen in his life. It must have been down there for 150 years.

What happened over the next quarter of an hour proved the claim on the Seawide website about “diligent project completion”. What this young man did down in the mud and weed at the bottom of Falmouth harbour was to take a 5mm Allen key, undo the retaining screw on the anchor swivel, drive out the bolt (which I always find difficult on the foredeck even with the big hammer) put the bits in his pocket without dropping them, remove the chain, untangle it from one turn round the Victorian anchor shank and another round the fluke – and then re-attach it.

“All OK, now,” said his mate. “You can winch it up.”

Well, actually, I couldn’t. The windlass was still on strike.

“Never mind,” I said cheerily. “I can pull it up by hand. I’ve done it before.” I have, too – all through the summer of 2019.

The two young men looked at my grey whiskers, considered how they would explain a dead old man to the authorities and pulled it up themselves – hand-over-hand in a trice.

I must say, it all made an excellent story in the bar of the chain locker that night. My greatest regret was that nowhere in all the drama did it occur to me to take any pictures – the workboard solemnly winching itself down to the bottom was most dramatic.

The following morning – after a good deal of urging from a beer-fuelled Tom, not to mention Con and Alan on Cornish cider, I presented myself at the harbourmaster’s office ready to claim a refund of my £97 harbour dues; the argument being that the said harbour was not fit for purpose (i.e. anchoring).

The harbourmaster came down to the front desk, ponderous with authority, his shoulders creaking under gold-braided epaulettes. He sympathised with my experience. He explained that the Harbour Commissioners could not guarantee that the seabed was totally free of obstructions. He suggested that I might be able to claim on my insurance (it’s third party).

The end of the story played out today – 48 hours later. Somewhat delicate after the previous evening’s welcome for Tom’s brother Sebastian and nephew Joe – who obviously deserved a session in The Stable and dinner at Balti Curries (brandy on the house), I returned to anchor in my favourite spot – now free – and was just having lunch in the cockpit when this turned up.

Over the next 20 minutes, while I raced to inflate the dingy so I could get round the other side of it and take better pictures, the peculiar craft raised the offending anchor as if it was nothing more than a 10lb CQR.

The diver was right. I had never seen an anchor as big as that either. The shank must have been three metres long. The flukes dwarfed the man directing operations from the deck.

I would love to know who paid for this operation on a Saturday. Was it the Harbour Commissioners? (ensuring without delay the harbour was free of obstructions after all?) Did Seawide services’ staff have their eye on a bit of scrap value in their spare time? Do I get a cut – after all, I discovered the damn thing.


19 Responses to The very big anchor

  • Johnny, here’s the review I left for you on my Kindle – apparently Kindle and Amazon (same company) don’t share reviews

    Top reviews from the United States
    Dan Jackson
    5.0 out of 5 stars Love of Sailing
    Reviewed in the United States on August 25, 2022
    Verified Purchase

    I really liked this book for many reasons. First John and I are about the same age, so I can relate to a lot of the things he writes about. Secondly, his love of sailing in quite evident, His love of family is also brought out. I big thing is he shows the mundane parts of sailing, the gripping parts, the wonderful parts.
    One of the greatest moments in my life was at Ambergus Key in Belize in the 1980’s. Everyone in the town was at Captain Loco’s Bar partying til dawn. As the sun came up the fellow next to me (whom I had been drinking and conversing with all night, stood up and yelled “time my children”. With that, the band quit, everyone in the place filed out and went next door to a small chapel. The Preist (surprise to me my drinking buddy) opened the door and every single person who was at the bar (everyone- customers, bartenders, servers, cooks and me) filed in. The chapel was a very simple one, but I did notice the double doors on the back (behind the alter) matched the entrance doors at the front. With everyone inside, the Preist held up his hands and signaled for quiet. He then opened the doors behind the alter and shouted as the sun arose “Good morning God! All of your children are here to thank you for the blessing you have bestowed on us!” With that everyone let out a loud cheer, started kissing and hugging everyone around them. All to the tune of one beautiful sunrise slowly climbing up over the alter. If I had not been sailing than this memory would never have happened. This memory can never be taken away from me, lost or destroyed. It is treasured forever in my mind. To sail is to experience life it its fullness. John and I are of the same mind. He said he wants to circumnavigate the world when he hits 90. I’d like to race him.

  • Hi. Have you made a claim on the Victorian anchor before it goes to the British museum.

  • Did you make a claim on the Victorian anchor?

  • Hello Finished one book. Another on the way. Reall interested in health concept. Can you send me the info ? Inspired sir !!! Phil A

  • Another wonderfully written story

  • Wow….that is a huge ####ing anchor….new follower here Jim, almost done with the book….Phil A

  • Maybe they wanted to avoid further complaints about fouled ground tackle. I think you got your point across. Thankfully they didn’t charge you for finding it!

  • Hi John

    I ordered and paid for the natural supplements as per your article but it was not delivered notwithstanding various enquiries.

    Can you perhaps advise any other method for enquiries/



    • Hi Hennie, Apologies for this rather public reply, but I’ve been in touch with the company, who say they emailed you several times between March 23rd and 28th but received no reply. Although you have paid twice with two different cards, they don’t have an address to send the product, nor a full name or phone number – so obviously, they haven’t been able to send it. Please would you email me directly – so we can get this sorted out. Best regards, John

  • Still loving your adventures.


  • Hello Sailor,
    Hope you had a good passage despite the Pringles.
    Were you able to get a good repair of your damaged goose neck fitting?
    Cheers Jonas

  • Great story. One imagines the ship

  • If you hadn’t produced the photos to prove it I would have sworn you made the whole thing up in the midst of some sort of alcoholic fuge. It knocks “you should have seen the one that got away” for six.

  • Great story John. You had me hooked.

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this blog old man.
    Cheers and hopefully many more to come

    Best of luck from another old man.

  • Wondering if it would have been cheaper to cut your anchor loose and buy another? Or is that a maritime no-no?

  • That looks like an old Admiralty anchor and looking like it’s the best part of 3 tonnes at least. It could be really interesting to learn where it came from but I guess that will never happen.

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The blog is back!

It is with great relief that I can confirm the Oldmansailing blog is back. It has been an anxious week waiting for it to reappear.

I left Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands on June 11th. On June 13th, 318 miles in the vague direction of a waypoint somewhere 100 miles east of Bermuda, I received an email (I would have received an email if I had some way of doing so) telling me that my domain name was about to auto-renew.

Five days later, there was another saying it had not been possible to take payment because the card on file had expired. There followed several more until, on the 28th: “Important – suspension notification.”

Of course, I was unaware of all this – blissfully unaware, as it happened, since the wind had filled in and on the 28th, I see that I recorded a day’s run of 131 miles.

The first inkling that anything was wrong came on July 23rd off the Scillies when a rather tentative mobile signal wandered south from St Marys and informed me that gmail had received no emails for me since June 10th.

That couldn’t be right, surely? That was six weeks. Six weeks without anyone offering to fix my bad posture or set me up with a new wife from south-east Asia?

Complaining to Google seemed about as useful as shouting at the weather so, instead, I called my domain-hosting company – the one connects to the other. I gave them my new card details. They withdrew what seemed to be rather a lot of money and said they hoped to recover the name (providing nobody else had grabbed it) and then restore all the content (no guarantees there, either).

This was slightly alarming. “The Content” dates back to 2017 – how many hundreds of posts is that? Everything from playing kissy-kissy with a racing pigeon off the Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme to “Death on the Foredeck” halfway up the Deben. Was it possible that all this could just have gone pop into the ether, never to be seen again?

I started playing the “What’s best about this situation” game. All I could come up with was “Well, if I do have to start again, next time I’ll keep control myself – instead of being held over a barrel by the web designer who refused to release the password and wanted me to carry on paying him forever. As it is, whenever I want to change something fundamental, I have to get someone in India to hack into it.

So now it’s all back up there, and I can relax.

Relaxing is what you do in Falmouth – it seems to consist entirely of pubs and restaurants.

And yes, the return from the West Indies was very straightforward, thank you: 3,437 miles, 44 days, nothing important broke or fell over the side.

But I did run out of Pringles 100 miles short of The Lizard.

16 Responses to The blog is back!

  • I was beginning to wonder….

  • Welcome back! Glad nothing important broke or fell over the side. I’m in my van on the coast near Dover. I still have Pringles.

  • Glad you’re back! When folks get to be our age and then go radio silent, it makes friends worry.

  • John, you left us after having dinner on our charter catamaran on June 10th. It was a true pleasure to meet you. Our whole crew has been checking in your progress daily. So glad you made it. You should find some young person to help you backup your content!

  • Would love to “sea” some recent photos, especially of the waterfront in Falmouth if you had any!

  • Welcome back, I was chatting to a fellow sailer about your antics only three weeks ago and said you were homeward bound from the BVI, but when I searched you on AiS it had you still enjoying the Caribbean sun off the BVI. I told him perhaps you had a change of heart, not ready for the British weather perhaps? Good to hear your home safe, just hope you don’t need too much reliance on the AIS…!
    P.s I should say it was through an app on my phone that I found you, hopefully the rescue services have a slightly better means of detection.

  • Welcome back John.

  • What a nightmare with that technology! Lovely to have you back though, enjoy your blogs.

  • Oh no. Out of Pringles. NOW that is a disaster.

  • Nice to see you’re back

  • Hello John
    Good to hear from you en to know that you are still alive and kicking!
    We missed your blog and were abouth to send you an email abouth it.
    Very nice too your blog is back!!

    Rob & Anke

  • Can’t seem to add a pic here John but saw your “artwork” in Horta the other day and it needs patching up. 🙂

  • Thank God, I can get my sanity back on track again!
    From an armchair sailor!

  • So glad you are back! Your followers may be few, but you are a huge inspiration, especially to this 70 year old sailor. Keep on keepin’ on John.

  • Pringles… Terrible.

    Never touch then, artificial rubbish.

  • No! Not the Pringles!
    Glad to see you’re still onboard and online.

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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).