Early June 2013 – Samoa

Pronounced as two words Sa-moa was a fascinating island to say the least. So much to offer we surfed down waterfalls on our backsides, swum in freshwater tunnels that no one had reached the end of, had lunch on the beach with a mountain of beers and jumped off ladders into the sea caves on the south coast. 

We arrived on the Friday morning having just contended with 40 + knot winds, Nick C had called in the port captain who’s kind reply was “please call me later”, what had we got ourselves into. 

As we sailed into the small harbour we were met by the port authority who guided us to our marina berth. The marina was still in the process of repair after a hurricane sometime earlier so we had the added benefit of free electricity and water (a nice change as most sailors will agree). We went through the general proceedings with quarantine who once complete told us we were allowed to go as far as the bar to get some beers and wait for customs to arrive. 

Damien took off in great delight of this news and returned shortly after with a six pack of local Vailima beer and a few cans of coke. Customs showed up a few moments later and to our horror commenced by telling us we were not at all allowed on shore and that we had to give up the name of the quarantine officer who had informed us we could, so customs could write up an official warning. Like all good matters we played dumb, gave a rough description and hopefully saved the guy from a complaint. Only moments later Damien started to read the details of the can of coke he was drinking, “not for distribution outside of Vietnam, for sale in Vietnam only”. Oh shit, the customs officer once again is staring in his direction, asked “What does that say…” Great, in the space of 30 minutes we have got one quarantine officer fired and placed another bar under scrutiny for the illegal importation of coca-cola. What next!

All in all though the customs officer who goes by the name of Jet Lee was a great guy, full of stories and invited us to his teams union match the following day.  We cleared through all the formalities and headed in the direction of town. 

We walked along the waters edge and continued to notice the friendliness of the people and the surprisingly large number of Kiwi’s living in the community. We went straight to Cocktails on the Rocks, a bar recommended to us, only to find beers sold in three litre jugs and Kiwi’s all over the place. After settling in with a few beers, Tom noticed a guy approach him who turned out to be a friend from his schooling days. It was arranged that we would go around the island with Anthony the following day so he could show us all the sites. 

The night progressed like so many other nights on this trip, drink after drink after drink. We ended up taking a ride home in the back of a ute with Dickie a local from NZ. We can’t really recall how but we ended up with a group of about 15 on the boat including ourselves. Most of whom are working for Aus Aid in Samoa. We partied well into the early morning sharing stories, laughing and typically carrying on. 

The next morning sun rise saw us greeted by Michelle Beattie who had just got off a 9hr flight from Sydney. Michelle didn’t know what to suspect on arrival but im sure it wasn’t Nick C in underpants and a few visitors from the night before. 

After a few explanations mainly by Nick C we were greeted by Anthony who was to be our tour guide for the day. We had hired a mini bus similar to what you would find in the ski fields of North America. We took off with Nick C behind the wheel in the direction of the fresh water caves. The caves were an absolute highlight, we swam into the first cave, the water clear, fresh and cold. Swimming deeper and deeper into the darkness. Once at the end we where told you could dive under and see light which was the opposing tunnel. After much discussion on which of the boys was game enough to go first a loud splash came from behind us. Michelle had disappeared and was headed straight for the light. First thought was that she was having a look. When she didnt come back up we realised she had gone through. We laughed and then took turns until all of us had gone through. What we thought would be a challenge was a small 3 meter passage that was a lot of fun to swim through. The second tunnel however was a little different in that even the locals didnt know how deep it was. Apparently the tribesman many years ago used the tunnel to keep meat fresh as the cool water acted like a refrigerator. 

We swam as deep as we felt comfortable in the tunnel until we realised we couldn’t touch the bottom nor see it. A slight panic from Nick C saw us all swimming out at an alarming rate. The locals waiting on the shore were in a fit of hysterics listening to all the carry on. 

A quick dry off and we were back on the road headed in the direction of the ocean sea caves. We arrived at the sea caves, this was basically a hole just back from the ocean cliffs that you could jump off landing in the water that snuck under the cliffs from the ocean. We did this for a few hours enjoying seeing who could jump from the highest point or do the coolest trick. Tom won this hands down with his 10 meter backflip off the ladder. An impressive sight that still has us cringe on recalling it. 

Back in the car again we had a short drive along the coast to our beautiful beach side lunch spot. A burger each saw us full and ready for a few beers and a relaxing afternoon on the sand. We played touch footy with a few of the locals whose athletic abilities put us to shame. After loosing the game we shook hands and jumped back in the car. 

We drove through the centre of the island to reach a different vantage point from which to view the island. Along the way Anthony decided we should check out a new Treehouse bungalow that was being built by an American couple. Well worth the stop. The Treehouse bungalow was amazing. Built entirely by hand by a father and son duo, the first completed bungalow was a two bedroom one bathroom treehouse that had us exploring every room like kids again. Ladders into bedrooms and tree roots right through the centre of the house we played for about an hour. The owners rent the bungalows like any typical hotel. Something for you to consider if you ever make it to Samoa. 

We finished the tour in true charm offensive fashion with more beers followed by a night out on the town. Our hosts are owed a massive thank you for such a wonderful day and experience in Samoa, it has been one of the best islands we have visited and our time there will not be forgotten any time soon. 

We once again set sail with our new crew member and made our way North in the direction of Savai’i, the sister island of Samoa. Savai’i has a very small population compared to the main island but offers more natural surroundings. Here we shot coconuts out of blow holes (which Nick C misunderstood and thought we would literally take firearms to coconuts launched out of blowholes, something he is still upset about), we saw amazing freshwater waterfalls that Tom once again backflipped off and swam with turtles (not in the wild). 

We conquered the island in one quick day as the team on Charm Offensive are all very keen to make it to Fiji as this will be the second last stop of the trip and the great place to enjoy a good celebration and farewell Michelle.

Charm Offensive aims to be home on the 15th July with the intention of a return party on the 20th July at the CYCA Ruschutters bay. We welcome all friends, family and followers who would like to meet the crew and those crew before them. We hope to have the boat close by so people can get a feel for the luxurious conditions of the Hanse 445.


Nick C (First Mate)

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May 2013 – French Polynesia – Birthday’s, Sailing Regatta’s, Parties, Beautiful Coral Atols

French Polynesia is a beautiful place where we celebrated some birthdays, visited a black pearl farm, swam with sharks, competed in the Tahiti pearl sailing regatta, meet up with our friends from Laisez Fair, lost Nick C overboard again and went scootering. The time flew by, we were there for one month and as I write this I just cant understand how quickly time goes. The closer I get to Australia the faster the time seems to go. I wonder what settling in will be like? Will I cope, ah who knows that’s still a few months off.

We spent the first 5 nights in Hiva Oa in the Marquises, it was nice to be on land after 18 days at sea, we wanted to be there by Nick C’s birthday and we made it. We had bought 12 bottles of rum to trade for black pearls throughout the Tuamotus but to be true to Nick Cowdrill style we got stuck into a bottle for his birthday celebrations. As the sun was going down we started on the rums and soon enough we all had a happy glow exchanging stories that we’ve probably heard 100′s of times before but none the less laughed as if it was the first. Then something dawned on us, we were forgetting something, what was it? We all thought about it for a while then as if the gears just ticked over in each of our heads at the same time we remembered we were meant to be rescuing the yacht Kaun Yin by helping them get into port this very night. Their oil sump was full of salt water, yes a pretty serious problem. The excitement kicked in and we finished our drinks, decided safety was the best option so put on our life jackets then Damien and I hoped in the dinghy and headed out into the South Pacific Ocean. Our conversation consisted of wondering if we would get commemorated for this work and how we would be named heroes. I don’t know if it was the alcohol talking or just our vivid imaginations but what we were saying was completely ridiculous. Having said that the seas were rough this day my friend, and Damien and I got a little wet on the way out. We saved Kaun Yin by strapping the Charm O dinghy to the side of the yacht and we motored them safely in at 2.5kts.

Our next stop was Manihi one of the many Tuamotu coral atols. We left at night with no moon on our 500nm journey towards the infamous Tuamotus. After 3 days at sea we arrived once again at night with no moon. As the entry to Manihi was a small coral entrance with only 90cms below the keel and a viscous current we decided to wait for a high slack tide which was the next morning. We sailed back and fourth till morning broke and then entered the coral atol. The water was amazing, crystal clear, with schools of fish everywhere, this place is a real paradise. The next day was spent exploring the coral atol, we went snorkelling, took a tour of a black pearl farm and looked through an abandoned hotel. The abandoned hotel was fun, we found the gym room and Nick C decided to pump iron, after a few minutes and probably due to the electric winches, he was buggered so we left to return to the boat for a sunset beer. A nice day was had by all.

We were moving quickly as we wanted to make the Tahiti Pearl regatta to get our competitive alpha male racing out of our system. Before that we sailed to Rangiroa which is another amazing coral atoll in the Tuamotus. Nick C decided the blue lagoon was the place to go so we ventured 16nm miles across the atolls lagoon to one of the most pristine brackish water lagoons I have ever seen. We hopped in the dinghy and went exploring, at first I noticed a shark then another till we were surrounded by black tip reef sharks. We anchored the dinghy in about 6 inches of water and walked ashore as little baby sharks swam around our feet. We then decided we would head back to the dinghy and venture out in the deeper water and snorkel with the bigger sharks. Let me tell you, we were no longer Alpha macho men when we saw these sharks, the fear hit us and in the end we just looked at the sharks from the comfort of the dinghy. We left that night for Tahiti before heading to Raitea.

After not being able to trade a single bottle of Rum for any pearls we arrived in Raitea the day before my thirtieth birthday to be reunited with our New Zealand friends from Laisez Fair the Beneteua 58 with air con, ice maker, pop up bar, pop up tv and 3 fridges.That day we had the first race for the Tahiti Pearl Regatta. Mack, Tom and Margot from Laisez fair jumped aboard and Mack was tactician. We were well ahead of the fleet and our only contender was the oyster 82 “Pandemonium”. We were ahead of them as well and the excitement on board was ecstatic. Pandemonium was on our tail about 0.5m off our back quarter trying to get inside of us, I pushed higher and higher till the dirty air on our comparatively minute sail slowed their speed and they fell further behind. Sadly this did not hold as we went into a reach, their waterline and massive sails pushed them slightly ahead. Then the race within a very tight reef was on, we had some very close and exciting encounters but in the end they just beat us over the line. That night Mack, Anne, Tom, Margot and Ruth put on an amazing thirtieth for me. It included a magnum of champagne and the most succulent beef roast we had ever eaten. Thanks team Laisez Fair.

The Tahiti pearl regatta was great fun with excellent racing and amazing parties. We came up with the nickname smoked oysters as the oyster yachts had their own division and started 10 minutes before ours. Even with that handicap we still managed to beat most of there fleet over the line. We were pretty chuffed with ourselves considering the smallest oyster was 54ft. We smoked them! Our line results were also very pleasing coming second to third on line honours for most races. Sadly we didn’t have a proper race certificate so our handicap pushed us back. The last night and after some very successful racing, Nick C decided to get stuck into the last remaining bottle of rum. We motored down the coral atoll next to a trimaran with a Frenchman holding his baby up in the air and dancing to the music coming from Charm O. Then the night started to get out of hand or more precisely Nick C started to get out of hand. Laisez Fair invited us over to have a pre drink and take there dinghy ashore. As we all got in the dinghy Nick C hoped in, walked to the other side, sat down and feel backwards into the water, fully dressed with wallet in pocket. Laughter erupted as we helped this drunken sailor on-board before heading ashore.

We spent the last few days in Raitea repairing a few parts and hired scooters to ride around the island. It was great fun and we circumnavigated the island seeing some amazing rain forests, old tiki ruins and beautiful villages. Our next stop was Bora Bora our last French Polynesian island.

Bora Bora was good fun, we went to the Oyster World Regatta yacht party at a famous bar called bloody Mary’s, we made some friends to quickly loose them at the end of the night when Nick C and Tom decided it would be funny to acquire an oyster flag but instead Nick C untied the ropes holding the flag pole up which came down with an enormous thud. They then decided it would be best to get rid of the evidence and sank the flag, you can see where the saying thicker than thieves comes from. The next day they spent apologising and purchasing a new flag for the oyster regatta. We then hiked the highest mountain in Bora Bora which gave us an amazing view from 800m above sea level.

Tom joined Charm Offensive in Bora Bora and his parents kindly took us all out to dinner on our last night to Bloody Mary’s. The next day we left for Samoa approx 1200nm west of Bora Bora to meet up with Michelle from Australia. French Polynesia was amazing, we had a great time and that is reflected with how quickly the month went.


“French Polynesia – Just Beautiful”

“French Polynesia – Just Beautiful”

From French Polynesia – Marquises, Tuomotos, Society Islands. Posted by Nick Black on 5/13/2013 (82 items)

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April 2013 – Galapagos to the Marquises – Flying Rays, Afternoon tea at sea, and Science day

The trip from Galapagos to Hiva Oa in the Marquises was a fun trip covering 3066nm of ocean, taking us 18 days and 30mins. We farewelled friends, watched flying rays, saw whales, took part in a daily sked, had baking days, had science days, and broke the steering cable.

As we left the Galapagos Islands it was sad to wave Russ and our new friends, Sapir, Manu, Gabriel and Claudia good bye but at the same time it was nice to know we were embarking on the largest ocean crossing for us to date.

In the first hour out of the Galapagos we were met by some whales and a flying ray who decided to show off and started doing back flips near the stern of Charm Offensive. It was amazing, I had heard of flying rays but had assumed they got up speed then flew out of the water near the surface in a straight direction. Boy was I wrong; this ray looked like he should enter the extreme games. It did back flips; front flips, side flips and some manoeuvres that even Shaun White the snowboarder would be impressed with. The acrobatics would last till the ray was at least 1.5m above the ocean before coming back to earth with a tremendous thud. It was quite a sight and gave Nick C renewed enthusiasm in his back flip ability. I pointed out its probably best to wait to Sydney before you practice as a hospital nearby may be a good option.

We started a daily sked called the Lonsome George Net aptly named after Lonsome George a giant tortoise that lived in Galapagos for over 150 years and was the last of his species, sadly dying in July last year. The sked was with two other boats, one called Pelagie from Holland and the other being a Canadian yacht called Kaun Yin 1. The sked gave us peace of mind as we knew there were other boats nearby and it gave us time to discuss our day’s activities including lack of catching fish but new fishing techniques we were trying all the time. After being without any media for at least 2 months it is funny how the daily sked becomes the daily news. Every day the sked was at 5pm, as soon as it was over Damien and Nick would wait with baited breath to see what was happening on the other boats and how quickly we were catching them. For 5 days we were doing 200nm days and where making at least 60 miles a day on both boats. A very pleasing outcome for all of us. Not that we are competitive males or anything like that but the thought of catching and overtaking another yacht that left 5 days before us got our hearts beating so we got all competitive and started adjusting the sails. This lasted about 24hrs before we went back to watching movies and reading books.

I have never baked anything in my life and after 7 days at sea and Nick C’s instigation of a daily afternoon tea a thought started to seed in my mind. The thought that I could bake was getting stronger and stronger and after 9 days I produced an apple and nutella cake. It was surprisingly tasty so I followed by baking a peach cake made from tinned peaches the next day. The second cake didn’t turn out as expected it was more of a pudding but still eatable. Nick C baked one of the best breads I have ever eaten; we had it with nutella, peanut butter and honey. It is funny how these simple pleasures become such an event when you have been at sea for a long time.

Science day was brought about after 12 days at sea. I have always had power draw issues onboard, yes it may be because we insist on listening to music, running the autopilot/chart plotter and watching movies 24/7 but still, it is what it is. To combat running the engine for over 4hrs a day I thought we could create a tow power generator (photo below) from an old outboard motor and a car alternator. The idea is that the outboards head is removed and replaced with the alternator then the water rushing past the outboard prop spins the shaft thus spinning the alternator and producing power. These parts had previously been purchased in St Lucia round Christmas and have been sitting in the bow of Charm Offensive waiting for the day to them together. As we bounced around in the ocean the back of the yacht looked like a work shop, hack saws, drills, taping equipment and wola a connected contraption of parts. The prop spun very well but sadly it didn’t produce much electricity. A re vamp and perhaps some gearing onto the alternator is required.

Oh SHHIIIIT!! Damien yelled as the steering cable broke, then he said something strange that I didn’t think you would normally hear coinciding with a breakage. Bloody brilliant. I said what do you mean, this is not brilliant. He said normally something like this occurs at 2am when it’s raining and it’s blowing 30+kts. He did have a point, we were sailing with just the gennaker up in 10kts of wind, it was mid afternoon, everyone was on deck and all we had to do was engage the autopilot that is connected directly to the steering quadrant and there wasn’t really much of an issue, we were on our way. Team Windcraft was emailed and they were on things straight away. As soon as we got to Tahiti we had a brand new steering cable waiting for us. It has been installed and works perfectly.

The trip from the Galapagos to the Marquises was the longest trip to date, the seas and weather were kind to us and all in all it was an excellent trip.

“Galapagos and the trip there”

From Galapagos and crossing the Equator. Posted by Nick Black on 5/01/2013 (75 items)

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24th March 2013 – Panama to Galapagos – UFOS, Sharks, Banana Man and DJ Spinaka

Panama to Galapagos – UFOS, Sharks, Banana Man and DJ Spinaka

We left Balboa yacht club with a fully loaded boat, 380l of Diesel, 700l of water, 140 cans of soft drink, 6 weeks’ worth of food, 15kg of chocolate and 12 bottles of rum. We did a lot of motoring as there wasn’t much wind, Damien saw a UFO or so he thought and we had a huge equator crossing party which ended up with a man overboard.

After a busy week provisioning and getting Charm Offensive ready to sail over 4000nm we left Panama for our first stop of the Galapagos before sailing on to Hiva Oa in the Marquises. We had a friend of Damien’s, Margirata, and Roland help us provision in Panama and we can’t thank both of them enough for their help. Thanks Guys.

Here is Damien’s UFO sighting or thought there off – Named thunderstorm at sea, 1:30am Panama Basin, halfway to Galápagos Islands.

Shit!! Lightning!! What are you supposed to do again? Don’t go under a tree. Check. Should I stay barefoot or put rubber thongs on? (only an Australian would consider a pair of thongs as potential safety footwear). Decide to stay barefoot, can’t find thongs in the dark anyway. Don’t touch metal. The wheel’s metal. Thank god for the autohelm. Still, at least tonight’s lightning is not as close as last nights on Nick C’s watch, where he watched it strike the water near the boat, close enough to smell the ozone. Must remember to ask him if he put on thongs. Ah! One thing I remember – put hand held electrical items such as VHF GPS in the oven. Apparently it acts as a faraday cage in the event of the boat getting struck. I wonder if I could fit in there…

After about 20 minutes of boxing the compass, the wind finally decided where it wanted to come from. Right on the nose of course. Finally we can head out of this downpour though.

A glowing green orb appears on the starboard side, about 50m from the boat. Maybe another fishing line marker (we had seen a few of them earlier on, marking the start and end of long line fishing lines, plus theres a few fishing boats out here)? But those markers are a bright, white, flashing light. Clearly not this. A giant squid or blob of phosphorescence? That must be it. Green orb then takes to the sky and shoots towards the front of the boat. Holy crap! Is there such thing as flying squid? There’s flying fish, and we are near the Galapagos, maybe I’ve just made a stunning new biological discovery. Maybe I’ll get a Nobel prize. Snap out of it Damo! There is no such thing as flying squid, now or ever, what a ridiculous notion. No it obviously is exactly as it appears – An alien space craft sent to spy on us. It is the only logical answer. Alien ship comes back, again hovering along the starboard side, about mast height. Seriously spooked now. I can’t see forward or up very well to follow its path as we have the dodger and bimini up. At least the Alien can’t see me either I figure. Ten minutes of my watch left. Just want to get below, dry out, and not see any more aliens. Then its back for a third time. Closer now, in fact I can now see the cockpit of the craft. It is shaped like a seagull head, and the fuselage is seagull body shaped. It is a seagull, glowing green because it is flying in the loom of the starboard tri colour…

3am. time for bed.

As for the equator crossing and the man overboard, this is best summed up in the following video. If you work for green peace then please be aware that no Dolphins were actually injured in the making of this film, we were joking. This video has been edited for a PG viewing. The full version which contains very coarse language can be viewed upon request when we return.

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14th March 2013 – Balboa Yacht Club, Panama

We spent the next 5 days provisioning and getting Charm Offensive and her crew, Nick Cowdrill and Damian Ryan ready to cross the Pacific Ocean.

With 6 weeks’ worth of food, 750 litres of water, 360 litres of diesel and more chocolate than Charlie and the chocolate factory we were ready to start our first homeward leg of 950 miles towards the Galapagos Islands.

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12th March 2013 – Panama Canal crossing and Gatun Lake

We had 7 people onboard and the excitement was high as we were about to cross through the famous Panama Canal. Our first lock was Gatun lock, Charm Offensive was raised 85ft through three lock systems to the Alligator infested fresh water lake of Gatun.

We spent the night in the lake and bumped into the Volvo 70 “True North”, a yacht I had the pleasure of sailing on at 27kts surfing down a wave in St Lucia thanks to Nicky Sooter. It was great to see them and we rafted up alongside for some rum and beers. Damian was so excited he went to the wheel of the Volvo 70 and pretended to steer at 0kts for what felt like the entire night. Every time I looked he was grinning and turning the helm making noises, yelling at the crew to ease the jib, and things like pressure on as if he was a Volvo 70 ocean racer. I wonder what would have happened if we were actually sailing.

The next morning albeit slightly hung over we woke at 6am and meet our new pilot, he liked to joke and even feel asleep as we navigated the 20 miles of freshwater lake towards the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores lock. The diesel groaned and I like to say loved being washed out with fresh water for a few hours. We then dropped another 85ft through 3 more locks rafted up next to a Beneteau.

As we excited the canal the feeling of achievement overwhelmed me as I had passed through the last lock into the Pacific Ocean and over the half way mark of my Journey home.


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4th March 2013 – Colon, Panama,

In colon we stayed at a Marina called Shelter Bay opposite the actual city and only ventured into the main town once to be bombarded with undesirable people. Here we fareweled our backpackers and sadly Javier who had spent the last 4 months onboard. We also had the boat measured by the Panama Canal officials and got ready to cross the famous Panama Canal and enter the Pacific Ocean.

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27th February 2013 – San Blas, Panama

What is the latest Irish invention? potatoes, Javier the baby killer and what an amazing place were just some of the conversations we had whilst in the San Blas.

The Irish backpackers, Naomi and Colum were excellent; we had fun witty conversation mainly centred around the Irish Australian rivalries. Naomi having back packed for the last few months felt at home on the boat and got to work, baking, making Irish potato meals and cleaning, we also worked hard by encouraging her with positive comments like great work, wow the boat has never been this clean, this tastes amazing and if you work a little harder you may get crew of the week. Luckily with our positive encouragement the work continued.

Javier took to the spear gun like a pig to mud, we couldn’t get the thing back from him, he would spear all day, coming back with fresh lobster, fresh crab and fish smaller than your hand. We were not impressed by the small fish and named him the “Baby Killer” but ate them none the less. We even swapped some surplus fish for a bottle of rum with a local yacht.

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20th February 2013 – Cartagena, Colombia

Crocodile, Turtle, history, beautiful women, and the dentist were just some of the components that made our Colombian experience so memorable.

Javier got all excited about the price of the dentist and went on a motorbike ride for 2hrs to the best and most well priced dentist in all of Cartagena. He returned with new teeth, some crocodile and the story of eating turtle at the local markets. We were less than impressed with the turtle but very excited about the crocodile. Having met some nice Colombian girls the night before, we invited them over for Sushi and crocodile. It was a fun filled night with a sushi rolling competition won by Javier and lost by Nick C who thought size mattered when it came to sushi rolls. Turns out they just fall apart.

We completed our tourist duties in Cartagena and went on a tour of all the local forts and statues of well known poets. Supposedly Cartagena is known for its writers.

We waved Roland farewell in Cartagena and picked up two Irish back packers for some extra cash on the trip from Cartagena to the San Blas islands and Panama.

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17th February 2013 – Kingston, Jamaica

We had a quick stop in Jamaica, mainly to fill the water and Diesel tanks before heading towards Cartagena, Colombia.

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