Big Blue at Last !
Updated: Mar 9
I hope that your Summer / Winter has been good and you are looking forward to a new season. You might have been wondering where we were during this time of absence and how it is going with Kokachin. Here is our well overdue update. It was not easy to summarise 6 months of a new life into these lines, without going into too much detail while hopefully giving you some idea what my life is about.
Our sea trials were not without excitement. Kokachin was like an untamed wild horse. To our amazement she would just slip away in not much wind taking off on her own, soon we learnt how to restrain her. Some of her wilderness was also helped by me letting go of a wrong halyard or sheet at the wrong time, generally in strong winds, when we tried to tack, anchor or do some important manoeuvring! We nearly ended up stuck in the mud or heading for the rocks. Every time my heart pounded with vivid visions of exaggerated impending disaster while Pete kept his cool, overcoming them all. More importantly we are very much still on speaking terms and, surprisingly, I remain his mate. Not sure for how long because I often struggle with so much novelty and things to learn while it is in his nature.
I bit my tongue at the launch when full of excitement I shouted to onlookers and friends on the pier: “I hope never to see you again”! What a fool. Pete had to make modifications to the trim tab - which was not powerful enough to turn the self-steering in certain wind conditions. We had to haul out again in Southdown, for about a week, just 10 days after leaving. Once relaunched and having spent an entire hour under the most magical rainbow in Plymouth Sound we headed for the open seas in a fresh breeze, keen to test the modified self-steering. We rushed to the bow to join two huge dolphins joyfully escorting us for a very long time. Their contagious playfulness absorbed us and left us in astonishment when their final synchronised somersault created a big splash across Kokachin’s bow.
Towards the end of working on Kokachin I felt so utterly exhausted and weak that I said at one point to someone:”I hope I will be alive for her launch!” All my body wanted was to rest until it fully recovered. We spent two weeks in Falmouth taking numerous friends sailing, and continue to do so everywhere we go. With our sails widely spread we sailed nearly all the way to Truro - effortlessly gliding with a gentle breeze up the river Fal’s still waters. Surrounded by unspoiled forest, we anchored in otherworldly peace and quiet.
Later, sailing in balmy sunny weather in beautiful Scilly Islands, hopping around islands and not doing much was just what we needed to get back our strengths and be ready for the sea again.
The self-steering is working perfectly, although the wind vane's precarious position aft requires watching
over in light winds, when the main sheet starts flapping. It feels like having a baby on board that needs nursing in light winds and a wild horse in strong winds. Kokachin’s heavy steering is a problem that needs resolving. Pete is pondering over it.
Sailing Kokachin in Falmouth
So far we have not had one full day of perfect sailing conditions. Generally there has not been much wind, and more often than not we drifted along in light winds. Occasional strong winds did not last long but provided some excitement. Raz de Sein, notorious for its strong currents, was absolutely terrifying. We entered it at 25 knots of following wind and sailed against 6 knots of current. Pete held onto the helm with all his strength and focus while Kokachin wallowed through the washing machine seas making painfully slow progress (2 knots) for hours. I, gripped with terror, looked at menacingly close rocks around a monstrously big lighthouse, imagining the worst. It was the closest I hope ever to come to white water rafting. Also, sailing out of Baiona, in 25 knots of headwinds, was memorable too as Kokachin tacked through sharp and short seas with ease. Just as well because the rocks were seemingly too close for my liking.
As for our cruising. I admired the French for their water sport activities. It seemed they take to the water at any age in any type of craft, anywhere, in any conditions and at any time.
I loved Galicia for its dark wilderness and sense of remoteness but agonised over the Portuguese ruined coast.
From Porto's beautiful train station we took a 200 miles long, 3 hours train journey in each direction, entirely along the Douro river. It was one of the nicest things I’ve ever done! Journeying through endless steep terraced vineyards, their dry parched soil contrasted with the green water's edge, it was like stepping into some different era. In Taylors Port Cellars the history and process of Porto wine making was so well explained - as well as its current struggle with climate change and enormous efforts to maintain sustainability.
Our sail from Faro towards Madeira was mesmerising even if we did not reach our original destination. With clear skies, moon and stars, blue rolling seas and in light winds, our slow progress meant we had to detour to the Canary Islands. In 10 days time, when Pete’s 90 days stay in Europe is expiring, we are heading towards the Caribbean.
Serendipitous events keep catching us by surprise. Like when Nikki & Charles stumbled upon us in the Scilly Isles. They are the same friends who bumped into us when we were in New Zealand. My dear friend Arieb, from Pakistan who rarely happens to be in the UK, joined us for a sail in Falmouth. Ben from Southdown anchored next to us in Cedeira - Galicia, while on unplanned boat delivery. Graham and Sally on Reliance sailed towards us one calm morning in Rade de Brest and then Trevor of Arctic / Antarctica on “Iron Bark” rowed up to us in a Canary islands anchorage. Some of the most amazing coincidental encounters we cannot explain that give us most of the joy.
Kokachin is an extremely comfortable sailing home. We are happy with her cambered junk rig sails. She exceeded our sailing expectations, she is reasonably fast, sails well to windward but we need to sail her more in tougher conditions to have a better assessment. I remain unsure of her vast and exposed cockpit - to which I refer as a stage! Neptune is back in his element, soaking his body and soul into this watery universe. I was delighted to spot him for the first time in years: reclining in the cockpit, motionless for 3 hours (!), just soaking up the surroundings and getting absorbed by it, doing nothing. What a blissful existence. Importantly, not to be omitted, he still treats me (deservedly) as a princess! We continue to have a lot of fun together.
We have been totally lazy, wanting to do nothing, reading, walking along empty shores and beaches or sightseeing, meeting friends new or old - just enjoying the randomness and freedom of a sea vagabond. It has been wonderful to join the sea vagrant community again.
As we cross to the other side of the Atlantic our ties to European shores will change. Every Caribbean island state will require a different SIM card / data plan. It probably will not be as easy to stay in touch - but I will try. I hope so will you since Christmas is coming and I’d love to hear from you too.
In 2023 wishing you a world at peace that will, if not reached, at least start approaching its paradigm shift towards a brighter, more balanced and less polarised future. Stay safe and healthy by being grounded and connected. Happy 2023 !
Linda & Neptune (AKA Pete!)