Sunday, September 25, 2011



Sailor Sue and I have never met, yet we have been friends for a number of years, cyber friends, each following the others life through emails and blogs.  This episode follows Sue’s adventures aboard Piano as she and her Barnacle Bill continue their odyssey from England through the Azores to the Caribbean.

Rainbow Rob   and   Sailor Sue


For the long haul across the Atlantic,  Captain Malcolm shipped aboard extra  able seamen to help with the sails and necessary crewing,  to help celebrate Sailor Sue’s birthday, decorate the cabin with flags,  and maybe to even bake a  birthday cake.

Does that sound a trifle flippant?  I don’t mean to be.  I’m actually in awe at the thought of anyone crewing anything less than  a QE2 across the huge Atlantic.  But then again I’m a landlubber and they most decidedly are not.

Sue and Malcolm’s  photos recording the event show blue skies and an apparently even keel, the gods of happy sailing were obviously with them as Piano made her way from the Azores to the Caribbean.

Skipper & Otto playing with the main
Flags for the Birthday Girl
Otto busy with sails first, then the cake
And finally, entertaining the Birthday Girl



FEB 2011

St Bartholomey

Monday, 7 February 2011

Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, Bardados.

We had a fantastic sail here from La Gomerra, in the Canaries.  Just 18 days straight down the wind with twin Yankees poled out most of the time. Some days we notched up 150 odd nautical miles.
 Since arriving we have been able to swim to the silver sands which they call the beach!  The weather is good, (understatement) but intermittent hot rain showers which last 2-10 minutes and are sooooo refreshing!
 Our friends aboard Folly are here as are Moosher and Life O Reilly.
 Ashore so far we have toured the South Eastern coast and seen the Orchid Gardens.  Travel around is easy with a regular bus service plus yellow buses and minivans in competition but for the same price BA$2 for any trip.
 We have some American friends coming out to St Barts so will probably sail there to see them, and then back to St Lucia where some English friends are having a holiday- but as you know plans change by the day....
 As usual wifi is poor and having just uploaded all the Barbados images for you I haven't had time to do St Barths yet. However we are sitting on the quayside besides all the super yachts (Gin Palaces) watching all the rich people in designer gear coming ashore for whatever, it being Sunday I guess it will be church! 

(For those of nautical bent)

Well we made it to the other side, arriving in Barbados on 27 Jan after almost exactly 18 days, which was at least 3 days quicker than we had counted on. The first English person we met when we arrived, had seen Piano when she was new and being fitted out!

Our only serious problem was a failure of the generator water pump impeller on the second day out. Then the replacement failed 7 days later  but luckily the second replacement hasn’t suffered the same fate. Also we lost a bowthruster propeller but that almost certainly happened in Las Palmas but we only discovered it while swimming around the boat here.

The distance over the ground was 2538nm, giving an average distance covered of 141miles per day (average speed 5.9 knots). The log recorded 2640nm, giving an average daily run of 147 miles (average speed through the water of 6.1 knots but I’m not sure how accurate the log is!). Our best daily run was 162nm (6.75knots), according to the log or 157nm over the ground and the worst 114nm. In fact we only had 4 days on which we covered less than 140 miles. We only had the mainsail up for 3 or 4 days towards the beginning of the passage – after that it was either one or two yankees and the staysail. While the trip was much faster than we had planned for, it was relatively uncomfortable, with lots of rolling but just two waves broke into the cockpit and the maximum wind we saw was 35 knots (very briefly).
 Sue coped very well and wasn’t seasick at all (probably thanks to the Stugeron).  

Otto fished for a while but on the second day, he lost lure, weight and half the line to something that was probably bigger than we wanted to deal with and didn’t try again. Still we had fresh meat and some vegetables throughout and ate very well. We saw 2 pilot whales, a turtle or two and quite a few dolphins but generally we were all alone. On the whole trip we saw just a handful of ships, coming within 2 miles of two of them. Our closest encounter was with another British yacht, also bound for Barbados, which we first saw on the AIS at around 15 miles and which finally passed about one mile astern of us. We had a long chat with him on VHF and he was surprised to learn that I had seen his green navigation light from over 7 miles away!





On the way back from the supermarket,  Deb (Bay Pelican) and Marsha (Crusader) stopped us and said it looked as though I could do with a break, so would I like to join the ladies for lunch at the Bay Garden Hotel? Just let Marsha  know by radio so that she could adjust the numbers, and remember to bring my swimsuit for afterwards.

  So I arranged a lift with Pat and Maria and had a fantastic time! 14 or so ladies from the anchored yachts and those in the marina plus a few who were just out for the season.  Marsha says the faces change each week—apart from the few regulars...cocktails and chat first, then sit down to lunch,& more to drink, followed by chilling out in the pool, while the more active decided to learn the quick step and salsa. 
Danielle (St Lucia Sailing Club) made an announcement about the Commodores Barefoot Ball on Saturday at the St Lucia Sailing Club.  We decided to go at the last minute and were pleased that we did, the food was all home cooked and delicious!  Dancing afterwards and we even got a lift home because the heavens had opened while we were eating.( Many thanks Daphne & David) 


13th May Canouan to the Tobago Keys.

Even shorter sail  just 3 hours anchor to anchor. It’s surprising how exhilarating this fast sailing is, Malcolm slept for the rest of the afternoon while I finished my book and updated the blog story ready for uploading.  Once again the water is not so wonderful for snorkelling and there is quite a wind blowing for fun in the water
14th May Tobago Keys
 The boat boy delivered croissants at 8.30.  First thing we moved ‘Piano’ from her mooring buoy 50 yards to the right nicely at anchor. We took ‘Crescendo’ of to another mooring buoy (no charge) so that we could snorkel.

27 May 2011

Union Island

Once again a fast sail and I helmed all the way ! - well it was only a couple of hours…  A special treat, since we have no fresh vegetables aboard we eat ashore. Red Snapper and unusual veg plus rice and coleslaw and Real CHIPS!!!

Barnacle Bill meeting a few landlubbers
Union Island

Piano beneath the Pitons


The sail to Grenada was ace! We averaged 6 knots and did 7.5 quite a bit too. We berthed at Port Louis Marina in time for Tea.  It is a very up-market marina with pool, private beach, de-luxe showers, free broadband wi-fi, TV, and the staff and security guys are wonderfully helpful.

A major shopping expedition to Grand Anse where there is an American Supermarket.  In the foyer are some ladies selling home made cookies etc—just like the W.I. Producers at home!  They turned out to be American ex pats and were doing quite a trade

We are in Whisper Bay
Monday 13th June, there was a holiday (Whitsun ?)so that meant a VERY LOUD party on Sunday evening. We were still both awake 0100 when Malcolm did a boat check and found the Avon (tender) (Crescendo) missing! The wind was ashore so we thought ok we'll look downwind in the morning....We announced on the Yachties 'net' what had happened and if anyone saw it would they bring it back/ help us look for it /take us to get a new one/ etc etc. 

Ok so one guy answers our plea and has seen a lone dinghy, on his way to us, so he & Malcolm go investigate and YES it is Crescendo minus the fuel tank (but even that is good news) Our new friend Tony then finds a local fisherman who has an old Yamaha tank for sale and takes Malcolm to buy it, we have a spare line aboard so all we need is a squeegee thing and Tony says he has a spare! so we are mobile again before lunch !
Wednesday 15TH JUNE
Malcolm went into town for more money and supplies while I terrified myself aboard in the worst squall of the trip.  The sky was black and the winds heeled the boat as though we were sailing! And I could barely see the shore!
Thursday 16th sign out of Grenada and slip for Peakes Marina in Trinidad.



The next three months are spent back home in England. To coincide with the Hurricane season, Piano has been put in mothballs.  Sue returns to her diary with the entry below.

After a most welcome break from the heat and humidity-plus visiting our cottage and many dear friends (A HUGE THANK-YOU to all those who gave us such splendid hospitality in the way of bed and board—John & Vi, Shirley & David, Adrienne and mum.)  We only missed a few other local friends and look forward to seeing some of you next year !




We arrived back in Trinidad amidst some trepidation.  A nine o’clock curfew has been imposed in some areas so we were lucky to have arranged a taxi driver who had a curfew pass to get us home.  Even so the police stopped him to check his pass.

 ‘Piano’ was cool and just as we had left her so we went straight to bed after nearly 24 hours travelling.

Needless to say my body clock was still on BST so I was awake with the birds. We told the cruising net that we were back and found that there was a ‘Pot Luck’ night tonight at another yard. Most of the unpacking stowed and breakfast over we then cycled to immigration to sign in and purchase food for this evening.

Immigration went well and we extended our stay until mid November (the end of the hurricane season here)  This cost us $200TT which we had returned the next day as it had been taken in error!



I managed to bake a cake and 2 Quiches & a chicken pie for the social events this week.  So Thursday evening we went to the Sundowners/Hors d’oeuvres/book/DVD swap evening at Coral Cove.

Friday spent at the laundrette and preparing for the hike to Rincon Falls tomorrow.

Saturday up at 0530 for a mini bus pick up at 0600 am—picked up 9 other people and journeyed to the North of the Island.  The Northerly range of Mountains is the highest of 3 and contains the Rincon Valley, this is where we began our hike to the Rincon Waterfalls. 

On a scale of 1-10 it was billed as an 8 on the Hike-Seekers website.  There was a gentle fall of rain while we were kitting up but this soon stopped so we began in great spirits.  Our Guide was Lawrence (Snake) he repaired Robyns’ flip-flops and gave us a pep talk before we began.  Snake is an ex army Survival Instructor with years of experience and very knowledgeable too.


  On route we stopped frequently for rests and were ably helped by Jesses’ brother Dan over some parts which needed ropes. Needless to say we were very messy by the time we arrived and pleasantly amazed by the height of the fall when we reached our destination. 

After lunch and a swim we set off on another route to return. This was a more gentle mule track and led to another waterfall and swim in cool mountain water. Jesse loves the water and make various attempts to climb up the falls so that he could either jump or water-slide down.  In a cave off to one side of the pool the resident bats were only slightly disturbed by the loud belly flops of Jesse enjoying himself! Snake helpfully repaired some walking boots which had begun to come delaminated and were later to loose the soles completely!

We continued back to the minivan, stopping at a local bar known of by Snake, where some of us had a refreshing beer.  Back at the minibus we changed into dry clothes and set off for Maracas Bay.  Here just on teatime we ordered a Shark-n-Bake (yum yum)  This is a ‘batter’ fried roll (very light and crispy) filled with fried shark, lettuce leaves tomatoes and coleslaw, with a side order of fries.  (Truly delicious)
  Homeward bound we were the last to be dropped off and after thanking Jesse for all his hard work driving we set about some serious resting up, tea, shower and sleep...


Sadly all good things must come to an end - unless of course you're a crew member aboard Piano.  So, with the Rincon Falls excursion behind them, I close this seafaring tale about Sailor Sue and Captain Malcolm.

I’ve so very much enjoyed their adventures, envied their travels and admired their sea going spirit. Sue's travel diaries have been a much less expensive substitute for a one way ticket across the Atlantic.

I will be keeping a watchful eye on Piano’s progress as they proceed ever more westward, hoping one day she will bring her sailors safely across the biggest pond of all, the Pacific, maybe find her way to another safe harbour, the one right outside Straddie’s Little Ship Club on Moreton Bay...which is of course,  just a hop, skip and jump away from my little patch of paradise.

Bon voyage, Piano!


Robyn Mortimer
Adapted from Sailor Sue’s – Piano’s Adventures Around the World.

Monday, September 19, 2011








Many years ago when I was new to this genealogy lark, and not too crash hot on the computer either, I made contact with a like minded lady in England.  She was researching her family tree and so was I.

We both had Mortimers hidden away in dusty archives and found each other purely by chance when we each left email addresses on the web.  Sue was very well organised, knew her way around county libraries and helped me no end as I stumbled through web sites; in the process making a dogs dinner of what should have been very clear cut.

You see, I had hastily assumed my Mortimers were convicts transported to Oz, a match for my Irish Spaldings, a discovery that pleased me no end.  After all it’s kind of cool to have one or two convicts in the family, delicious to have three or more, especially when one was a gun toting highwayman.

With Sue’s help, I spent literally months, almost years, searching  the origins of these convict Mortimers only to find they weren’t mine at all.  And what’s more my eventual law abiding Yorkshire Mortimers were in no way connected to Sue’s equally reputable family of the same name.

Though we’ve never met, face to face, we stayed in  touch, cyber pen friends, each following the others path in emails and with photos.

And that’s where  we are now, Rainbow Rob and Sailor Sue, me churning out blogs in Oz, doing what I like doing best under the watchful gaze of my Reluctant Traveler,  while Sailor Sue and her Captain Malcolm leave me green with envy as they sail the world.



Piano before the purchase
Sue’s better half is a sea dog.  He has sailed the world on racing yachts.  I guess at the back of his mind has always been the urge to cast adrift from a life on land, opt instead to sail the seven seas.  No doubt he knew exactly the boat he had in mind and some three or so years ago he finally found her.

She hailed out of Antwerp, a quality Bowman 45 Yacht with untold extras, including a Technics 106 digital piano.  Sue related the day of commitment...

2008. We begin in Antwerp Belgium, where we viewed, had a sail, and decided to buy this AMAZING  Bowman 45 Yacht... Luckily we are able to keep her name ‘PIANO'... For anyone reading who already knows her, the piano is staying in Antwerp with Jan and Ghislaine to remind them of the happy times on board.

As you can see, the piano was a snug fit.
The deal was struck and on Sunday 28th September, 2008 Sue and Malcolm up anchored, and to the accompaniment of champagne and well wishes,  set sail for Dunkirk, and thence across the Channel to England.

Their life on the high seas had begun.


The start of their adventure wasn’t instant.  First there was the all necessary marine survey, then Piano needed an equipment upgrade, layout adapted to the new owners whims and wants.  The spot where the piano once fitted so snugly converted to a bench for computer, among other items.

Sue is a keen cook, from her emails I gathered she liked nothing better than to create a cake, bake a fresh loaf of bread.   The galley, I’ve no doubt was one item on her must add to list. 

For Malcolm there was the never ending mechanics and logistics of engine, sail, navigation, and keel.  A huge job involving, in one instance, temporary removal of the main mast.

Then finally the big day arrived with all its goodbyes.  Ahead, to start with, was the Channel crossing to France and Portugal, then the Med to Morocco.  

Eventually Piano would sail the Azores and cross to the Caribbean.
Piano’s adventures in these  ensuing years are best detailed in Sue’s own words.  Malcolm will have to forgive me, I’ve lifted various sequences that appealed to me, a non sailor, a land lubber whose only experience at sea has been confined to either a tiny runabout or a huge passenger liner.


APRIL 2009 – To Cornwall
With all matters being so hectic I'm writing a quick note to record the sail from Dover to Falmouth and the Mayflower Marina.
... a peaceful trip with sightings of many black markers showing fishing pots and Roger (chief crew) even saw Dolphins at dawn on Friday morning.

... invited Carol and Susie around for  sundowners. Just a few sips with much natter about all our various lives past & present and all that has to be done before we can begin our respective travels. I couldn't resist a trip to 'Wild Bird' to see what mayhem was being done(to their boat) - poor girls coping bravely in the face of 'builders' as we would call it on land. Wow ! they even have growing herbs AND a spice rack!

I’m sure you can see, even at this early stage, where Sailor Sue’s wish list is leading!  In any case ‘Piano’ eventually arrives at Rustlers Boat Yard where Captain Malcolm’s wish list is seriously huge and even requires a crane to demast and eventually reposition the main mast.
So it’s no surprise that almost six months will pass before Piano begins her big sail into the wide blue yonder.

SEPT 2009 – To France
Friday was spent with our heads in the locker putting a new computer into the auto helm. even that didn't sort it so Gary left us to continue trying to find a solution late Friday afternoon. On Saturday we decided to finish setting up the Radar so we went for a sail and Lo! the auto helm kicked into action once again (after all the fiddling on Friday) so I said why don't we just go? and since we were on the right course we just carried on.

So here we are in La Rochelle - poor internet but I'm being quick the trip took 2 days and a few hours. We averaged 6 knots . Piano goes like a train. Even fully reefed and no yankee 6 knots !
I was pretty seasick so Malcolm did it all single handed.

XMAS 2009- PORTIMAO, Portugal

Merry Christmas!

Wow! what a month we have had. The sail across from Lagos was superb! The marina is quiet!

Praia De Rocha is the beach area for Portimão and that is where the marina is situated.  Most of November was spent restoring the colour of the teak work and deck upstairs, the year in England had really done for the old girl. Now that she is sparkling again she's like a new girl I'm just wondering how long it will last...

After all the hard work, had a day out sailing in 'lightwinds' to try out the Multi Purpose Genoa (a pretty orange and yellow ) and in 6knots of wind we were doing 5knots of speed !!!! how about that for a 13 ton yacht! 

Lunch time was a gourmet salad with Smoked Salmon, a watercress dressing and freshly baked crusty bread.


Up early the next day for the sail to Gibraltar.
The pilot book reckoned that winds of 30 knots are said to blow for 300 days of the year !! Anyway we flew into the bay and had to slow right down for fear of all the traffic! Oil tankers, container boats and so many ferries all made for a stressful entry. Enough! once we turned into the Marina it got quieter. We moored bow to and got the passerelle out to use as a path. Then time for a cool beer. Then out to look for British Fish & Chips Yum Yum!

Santa Maria.
Well I have fully recovered from Mal de Mer but it took 2 days to get my land legs again!
We have been here about 10 days and have had a brilliant time. The Marina has an excellent ‘Club Naval’ with bar and restaurant. For most of the week we have been one of three yachts—very peaceful indeed! It has only rained twice and both times it was lovely warm rain.

Pianist Sue creating her symphony in C for Piano.


Pico Gordo volcanic walk - Terceira
At this stage Piano has ventured away from mainland Portugal and set course for the tiny clutch of islands comprising Portugal’s Azores, perched off the north west of Africa. By now they find kindred spirits in accompanying yachts arriving at the same destination.  With each landfall comes the urge and opportunity for some strenuous exercise.

Terceira, Azores
(For the Mal de Mer) I took advice from everyone! Had a fizzy Vitamin C drink for breakfast, Stugeron (25mg) and the wrist bands! The passage was calm and enjoyable no rolly wave motion and I felt fine throughout! (note to remind myself to try the same again ) We both had lunch and dinner while en route and also a couple of hour kip.

On Sunday it was sizzling so I had a day on washing the deck. Malcolm meanwhile went to see the “Tourada à Corda” the street bullfighting. This one was on the harbour wall with containers to provide safe viewing for the public. It also meant any easy exit to the sea if the bull got too close, except one bull fancied a swim and jumped in!


24th hired mountain bikes which were taken to the top on the Caldeira and unloaded. We had expected to cycle around the rim but after starting off Esther and I decided it was ridiculous to try.
Needless to say Otto and Malcolm battled on and arrived back shattered! Martin & Jean forgot to tell us that you are supposed to WALK the rim and THEN cycle back to Horta !
The guy at Peters’ Sport was gob smacked when he heard that Malcolm and Otto had actually done it !! The free-wheel down was awesome 18KM from the top down and was it fast. I was overtaken by a car at one point but kept pace with it for a fair distance afterwards.

31st did some more painting with Esther on what we thought would be the new marina wall, the locals tell us it will be for fishing boats but hey it’s good practice! Also made a lemon cake & birthday-card for Esther who celebrates tomorrow. (There will be many more walls to come!)

OCTOBER 2010 - TO MOROCCO ...Rabat- Casablanca –Marrakech
I must mention my first passage as a working crew member, yes now that I take Stugeron (25 mg) I no longer get motion sickness and can do sufficient to give Malcolm 5 hours of sleep. My watch is 9 p.m.’til 2 a.m. I had prepared hot meals for the first 3 days so there was a minimum to do below deck in the rolly conditions. After that we took the meal preparation in turns.
Highlights of the trip were Dolphins cavorting around the boat and a lone turtle making an ocean voyage.
About midway we decided that the waves would probably prevent entry across the sandbar at Rabat so changed course for Portimao. This has the bonus that we can get a few more jobs done before we move further away from civilization.

Casablanca 8th October

Decided on a day out of town and so took the train to Casablanca with a picnic lunch.  Rather a lot of bustle when we arrived but we managed to find our way to the old town (Medina) and walked through the souk towards the Hassan II Mosque. 

Christmas 2010 was spent in Lanzarote before sailing onto the Madiera Archipelago and the port of Funchal.

Funchal - a huge liner

Madiera market - similar to those of Cuenca

A tiny town perched in Madiera's highland
I’ll end this first part of my friend, Sailor Sue’s adventures aboard Piano, on the eastern side of the Atlantic with Sue's photo of Lanzarote by night.  You’ve seen only a small portion of her photos, read only a snippet of her travel diary.

To see more follow her link on my blog page.

Part 2 of Piano’s next great adventure will be the crossing of the Big Pond, the Atlantic from east to west, destination... The Caribbean.


Robyn Mortimer 2011
Storyline adapted from Sailor Sue’s Piano’s Adventures Around the World.

Next – PART 2- OFF TO SEA IN A PIANO- Bermuda

Monday, September 12, 2011



Istanbul stood high on my wish list of places to visit and explore.  Some years ago now, I made a sudden diversionary trip to Turkey.  Another of those last minute decisions where the Reluctant Traveller had not the slightest idea where I might be.

At the small hotel where I stayed I met Betty, an American nurse taking a weekend break from a Saudi hospital and we decided to share our first visit to a Turkish bath house.  

Believe me, a Turkish bath house is not for the shy or the easily embarrassed.  There are mixed Hamman’s where some decorum of nudity is observed and advised.  The one we chose to visit had two segregated sections, one for men; the other for women.

This Hammam was just as elaborate as the one I visited.

After first opening the wrong door, the one into the men’s bath house we were directed around the corner to the women’s section and given a choice of treatments.  We settled on a wash, steam and massage, deciding not to take the oil massage.

Shown to individual change rooms, given slippers, mini towel and a key to the rooms where we would leave our belongings, we wandered down a corridor.  I felt decidedly uneasy, the skimpy towel barely covering strategic parts I would rather have kept hidden.

The vestibule and change rooms had been utilitarian, even dingy then a door opened into a cavernous marble bath house with a high domed ceiling, lavishly decorated with elaborate alabaster reliefs.  I imagined harems and seraglios and trusty eunuchs. 

The guide instructed us to sit on marble slabs beside gushing fountains and to ‘water’ ourselves with dippers full of hot water. Towels hanging above us, there we sat, naked as new born babes,  Betty and I trying hard not to laugh. 

After half an hour of hot water dipping, the door opened and in walked a lady who was obviously the head washer woman, perhaps late 50’s early 60’s, wearing only baggy knickers, her ponderous breasts hanging free, and a scarf incongruously wrapped round her head.  A bit like a London cleaning lady with bare boobs.

She began dousing Betty in even more water, then motions her to lie down on the central marble slab.  A younger woman enters and approaches me.  We are then thoroughly soaped, instructed to turn on our tummies and the soaping resumed.  It is a lengthy, relentless kneading of strong hands on every section of our body, legs, arms, neck, face, head, stomach.  Deep massage that has me wanting to say enough, cease, my body can’t take any more. 

In between all this we’re doused with more hot water followed by the shock of cold, before being towelled dry, hair combed and left to sit again in dripping steam.  The women depart, we’re left alone.

We soon realise we’re no longer captives and can leave at any time. I breathe a sigh of relief; this chook is well and truly cooked.

After a quick session with the hair dryer I feel incredibly fresh and rejuvenated, hair shining, face rosy red.  As we leave, the wash ladies approach for tips, a firm insistent but silent request.

They certainly earned a tip, to be honest though, I wouldn’t have been game to refuse.


Robyn Mortimer ©2011