Pictures from Antigua, St Barts, St Martin, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Columbia

“Random shots from Antigua, St Barts, St Martin, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Columbia.”

From Antigua to Columbia. Posted by Nick Black on 3/01/2013 (104 items)

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Charm Offensive in Yachting World (Feb Edition 2013)

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Charm Offensive Video Blog Update – 2013

Video Blog update from Charm Offensive



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St Lucia We Love

On the 13th January Nick Cowdrill joined Charm Offensive, he will continue on the sail back to Australia with me over the next 5/6 month. It was great to have him jump on board and see a familiar face from home. 2 days later Javier joined us and the next night Roland.

We made some nice friends in St Lucia, Nicky and Henrietta from Sydney. The next few days we showed Nick C around the island. We always like to do things the way the locals do it so we jumped in the back of Beth’s ute (pickup) and headed south to some beautiful natural waterfalls, we had lunch in Soufree, we cruised past the Pitons. The Pitons are two volcanic peaks that the island is famous for, they climb from the water’s edge right up to 900+ mtrs above sea level. You can climb them but after a massive lunch of chicken, rice, pasta and salad we opted to keep heading south to Laborie Bay. We spent the remainder of the afternoon chatting with some local guys and watching the sun go down. It was a great experience to get away from the main tourist traps and see what the island really has to offer. We can’t thank Beth enough for driving us around and Nicky for organising it. After the sun went down we headed home making one last pit stop at a bar that looks out over the city, it was Beth’s favourite spot to take people as you stand on top of the hill reflecting on life and admiring how beautiful the Caribbean is.

The following day Beth took us kitesurfing, not only is she a great tour guide but she also runs the local kitesurfing school, highly recommended, she is a fantastic teacher with so much patience. Beth is a local Olympian for St Lucia having sailed for them in the last Olympics so you’re assured she knows her stuff. After some practice with the small training kite on the beach it was time to hit the water, the best way to do this is to tie a rope to your harness and the land so you don’t go to far from the shore. Here we learnt kite control, no board yet. Beth taught us how to control the kite at its maximum height so it is stable and you can do things such as clip your feet into the board. After some practice at this you then let the rope go and drag yourself (with Beth close behind) from one side of the bay to the other, again the idea is kite control. It was such a great experience as it’s something all of us have wanted to do for years. One more lesson would have seen us on the board but unfortunately we didn’t have the time the following days as we had to get ready to leave. Roland joined us after his month trip through parts of Central America.

The next day we went to the Body Holiday Resort which is on the north side of the island This resort offers guests a one off fee for all entertainment, food and drinks you can consume. The hotel has 4 restaurants, 2 or 3 bars and all the water sports guys like us could want and need. Locals or tourists from outside the hotel are welcome to the hotel and purchase packages based on what they are interested in doing, the advantage for us however is that once you’re in no one checks what you have paid for. So like all good boys we purchased the all you can drink and eat package and made our way to the beach. After indulging in a few cocktails, beautiful local and influenced food we thought we would hit up the wake-boarding, single ski and hobicat. The day went from great to fantastic. I managed to have a fantastic fall on the single ski after trying to upstage the locals.

After a solid day of the body holiday it was again time to head home and see what everyone at the marina was up to. The next day consisted of grabbing the last few things we needed in preparation of leaving, food, filling up the water and fuel and picking up a few sails being repaired. The night however consisted of dinner and drinks at the local street market in Gros Islet. The following day we said our goodbyes to the friends we had made over the over the past month, then it was sails set and off to Martinique. Martinique was a 25nm sail North of St Lucia and a good introduction to sailing for Nick C who managed to keep everything down and really enjoyed the experience.

We dropped anchor at St Anne Bay which is on the south side of the island, a beautiful bay with crystal clear water about 5 mtrs deep. Here we had a quiet night and had a short walk around on shore.

The following day we set sail again and headed north to Fort de France, the main city of Martinique. Martinique has a population of 408,000 and is a French ruled island. It sits in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc sailed into Pierre bay in 1635 after being driven from St Kitts by the English. A Beautiful island in the Caribbean where the French rule has continued to this day, the island has a strong influence from France with wonderful terraces, streets and language.Roland and I went out in search of a generator to help with our power consumption issues, I now know it’s a must have on all modern cruising boats. To Nick C and Javier’s delight Roland also purchased a brand new air conditioning unit so we are keeping cool in the cabin at all times.

So now cool and with all the power we need we set sail in search of Dominica, a short 80nm sail saw us spend about 10hrs aboard until we made it. We sailed with a rough 20kts of wind and averaged 8kts on the trip. We arrived and dropped anchor in Prince Rupert Bay late afternoon, again the clear water and perfect conditions followed us. We went ashore, had some chips and a few beers before heading back to the boat for a fantastic meal prepared by our onboard chef extraordinaire and professional sailor Javier.

From St Lucia. Posted by Nick Black on 1/19/2013 (49 items)

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Merry Christmas from Charm Offensive

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The last few minutes of the Atlantic crossing, St Lucia, Mum’s arrival, Peter /Javier’s departure, and the skipper in a wheel chair

Quick facts of the trip and then a blog update:

Passage = Las Palmas De Gran Canaria to St Lucia

Total Distance travelled = 2864nm

Time taken = 15 days and 8 hrs or 368hrs

Average Speed = 7.8kts

Top speed = 20.3kts Achieved by Javier surfing down a big wave

Best days (24hrs) average miles = 217nm

Average True wind angle (relative to the boat) = Down wind and in the Leigh (160-180 degrees)

Average True wind direction = North Easterly/Easterly

Average wind speed = 18kts

Max wind speed = 40kts

Min wind pressure = 0kts

Motoring propulsion hours = 0hrs

Engine charging hours=65hrs

Aussiemite consumed = 1 jar

Internet downloads = 35mb

Charm offensive position in division 1e = 3rd

Position overall = TBA


As we could smell the earthly air of land the excitement of finishing the Atlantic crossing and being in the Caribbean started to creep in. John and Javier quickly made a fishing lure to attract any last fish; we talked tactics and planned our arrival. There were many parties on arrival and some St Lucian Crew Olympics. I ended up in a wheel chair in hospital.  We all made hundreds of new friends and it was good to see familiar faces and my mum.

Javier and John spent hours making a killer fishing lure from orange fruit bags and bright coloured plastic bags. We were two days out and the lure had just been deployed when bang our alarm system rigged up to the fishing line went off with a shudder, within seconds while still surfing at 12kts we were pulling in a massive wahu. Much to everyone’s delight we ate the fish within the next few hours.

The finishing line was an interesting one, we had two boats behind us and we were going as fast as we could to keep a distance from them, one was an Oyster 82 from America (in hot pursuit of us) and the other a 52ft aluminium yacht called Drina from Sydney. As we rounded Pigeon Island we tightened from a broad reach to a close reach with 20kts of wind, the boat was flying upwind and we aimed for the port maker to shorten our distance as we came in. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. The camera man was there taking some photos and Javier who was on the main just wanted to get in the photos. As we got closer to the mark a 25kt gust hit us and I asked Javier to ease the main, Javier just sat there smiling at the camera and waving, I asked again with a bit more anxiety/anger in my voice as we were about to round up. I was counter steering more and more, Javier just kept smiling and waving and then I hit Javier in the back the second before we rounded up only 4m from the finishing line. Javier realized what was happening and dumped the main and we made it through the finish line just in time. I haven’t seen the photo but I think the shot of Javier realizing what had almost happened would have been the best shot.

As we dropped the sail it was an amazing feeling of achievement for, myself, John, Peter and Javier who had just made Christopher Columbus’s Atlantic crossing, perhaps in a little more comfort with fresh gourmet food, lots of TV shows, music, internet, a chart plotter, AIS and the occasional warm shower but none the less we crossed the same ocean on a similar route. We all congratulated each other and dropped the main sail that had been up for the last 15 days and 8 hours. We then kicked over the diesel and after 65hrs of battery generation over the trip we put it into gear.

As we came down the St Lucian canal to Rodney bay Marina we saw Damian from Australia at the bar on the side, then when we rounded the canal towards the marina berth the ARC team and my mother welcomed us with music, Rum punch and a fruit hamper. It was very nice Javier even had a go on the metal drums.

Then the parties started, and boy did they start, the St Lucian welcome party was on the first night, it was a very nice night with rum punch and great St Lucian food. We all had a fun night, the next day we officially checked into the Marina and I meet a guy called Adam Foster from Australia. He runs the marina here and it turns out we had lots of mutual acquaintances in Sydney.

My first job was for Dalbora Marina Akuna Bay and Adam was the Manager of Dalbora Marina Rushcutters bay for many years. It’s amazing how small this world is. Adam and his wife Alex have been excellent helping us with everything from designing tow generators, to slipping the boat. Yes after just 6 months Charm Offensive has no antifoul left and the growth is coming through.

On the third day we had the IGY crew Olympics organised by the Marina, we competed in the usual novelty races including soccer paddle boarding. As with all these Caribbean parties it was fuelled with Rum punch and beer.

As team Charm offensive was not doing so well we decided to join Tom and Jo from Laisez Fairez which is a New Zealand team, we know this is a no no but we quickly changed the team name to team Australasia. In the end even after doing the Worm dance in the Shark suit we still came last but won best dressed. Team Sumtra another Aussie boat won the event.

The day after the crew Olympics was one sad day, we had to wave Pete farewell and I went to Hospital but I’ll talk about the hospital later on. Peter was a real asset to team Charm Offensive and he gets a huge thank you for organising, purchasing and then transporting two second hand sails over 30,000km’s to Las Palmas de Gran Canarias. 30,000km’s you ask? Well peter bought these sails in America then flew them to Sydney, then from Sydney to London then London to Las Palmas. A really great effort for some sails that helped us greatly in the crossing and will be a real asset to Charm Offensives tiny sail wardrobe. Pete was also resident spectra splicer he has made some very nice spliced soft spectra shackles and loops around the boat. Pete kept threatening to teach me how to do the shackles but I somehow wiggled out of it. Thank you Pete it was excellent to have you on board, your wealth of knowledge, calm nature and help was greatly appreciated and helped us do so well in our Division.

Now back to the night of the crew Olympics which caused a visit to the hospital the next day. The injury can be narrowed down to either a sporting injury from the Olympics’, or a rum punch injury. Considering the Olympics were finished, although its alcoholic effects lingered, it probably leaves one option. Walking along all of a sudden a slippery rock appeared out of nowhere and flipped me up in the air causing my knee to on a sharp rock. At the time it was ok but then the next morning I couldn’t walk or move my leg.

The Hospital gave me a wheel chair, a staff of five to keep occupied, lots of tests and a huge bill. It was good fun as I’d never been in a wheel chair before. The outcome was no fracture but bad heavy bruising so a removal splint was attached to my left leg.

After the hospital  the taxi driver and I went to the barber. The barber Denver kindly included some free spiritual healing on my knee. Thanks Denver, hopefully within a few weeks it will be back to normal.

The next day was another sad day as long term crew member Javier Perez left us to see his novia in Venezuela. Javier has been absolutely amazing, an excellent sailor, brilliant helmsman, amazing cook and good fun person. He may be back for more of the Caribbean; Charm Offensive hopes to see him soon. Thank you Javier.

Dad is still on board but a huge thank you to him for all his help and support, before, throughout and after the crossing.

Aside from that we have all meet lots of very nice people, have made many new friends, the outboard is broken and now it is time to get back to boat jobs and repair the few things that broke on route.



“Photos from Las Palmas, crossing the Atlantic and St Lucia”

“Photos from Las Palmas, crossing the Atlantic and St Lucia”

From Goodbye the Mediterranean, Hello the Caribbean. Posted by Nick Black on 12/20/2012 (86 items)

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Can almost smell the St Lucian Rum

After 13 days at sea we can almost smell the Rum of St Lucia, we are currently 400 miles out and assuming nothing goes wrong we should arrive in St Lucia in the next few days.

Since the last blog update we have caught a Wahu and another Dorado but only caught them when we had 5kts of wind and were travelling around 2-3kts and sadly it was not in the right direction due to the wind on the nose. With a bunch of pure sailors on board the decision not to motor was made so we sat it out while our main flopped back and forth in the Atlantic for a little over a day. I’ve been told no wind can make people go crazy well I can tell you that after 24 hours of the sails flapping and the distance to St Lucia no closer that was enough to send us all a little batty. I can’t imagine what weeks in the doldrumns would be like.

Javier has contiued to cook up some amazing meals, we ate gourmet pizza yesterday and right now he is cooking a Paella or something similiar.

John’s radio Skeds are getting longer each day, with the topic of conversation pretty much centered fishing and life aboard. The $120 HF SSB 8525 Codan Transciever may look like an antique amongst the modern electronics on this boat but it does wonders. A bit of copper is towed behind the boat to earth it and the conversation flows over 100’s of miles across the Atlantic.

Peter’s pay back for the black eye accident occured the other day with another at sea incident. A cup of hot tea had just been made by Nick when a rogue wave hit us and the oil residue from Javiers cooking on the floor caused Nick to slip and fly across the boat and land on Peter with hot tea going everywhere. Luckily no burns or injuries were sustained, there was just a nice mess for Nick to clean up.

Life aboard is still going well, a lot has been learnt about the Spanish economy, the education system and why it is so good to invest in Spain at the moment. More has been learnt about flying 747’s and Peter’s younger years. John has also taught us about his younger years and has learnt how to make an amazing banana bread using pears, I guess it should be called pear bread. Nick has continued to study for his telecommunications certifications and is addicted to the tv show Homeland season 1. Much to the crew’s delight Nick’s music has been replaced with Elton John. The crew is hopping this will last to St Lucia……..



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Life aboard Charm Offensive a Hanse 445, crossing the Atlantic with the ARC

Life aboard Charm Offensive a Hanse 445, crossing the Atlantic with the ARC:

Crew Onboard:

Nick Black – Skipper

John Black – First mate A.K.A Cabin Boy (Nick’s father)

Peter Smith – Navigator

Javier Perez – Chef Extraordinaire, Helmsman


Sailing update:

The winds keep blowing, we have had an average of 20kts with a low of 11kts and highs of 37kts at about 160-180 true. This has been for the last 7 days. To begin with we had higher winds of around 28kts which allowed us to surf very well. Javier reached max speed of 20.3kts surfing down a wave. Since then the waves have dissipated and so has the swell so the surfing is still fun but the speeds less. The main is setup with a preventer and the jib has been poled out most of the trip.


Gourmet cooking update:

Javier our Spanish chef is making the most amazing gourmet Spanish meals, we are going through a lot of olive oil, AussieMite and pizza is being made from scratch. We caught a nice sized Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and a beautiful garlic sauce was quickly whipped up.


Black eyes:

The Skipper currently has a black eye, navigator Peter Smith and the Skipper had a run in. What actually happened was the saloon table had given way so the Skipper was working on the cylinder that holds it up to see if it could be repaired when all of sudden a rogue wave hit us and Peter was airborne flying across the cabin towards the Skipper.  Peter landed on the Skipper’s head which was stopped just below the eye socket on the stem of the saloon table.



Nicks black eye

Peter various abrasions

Javier’s extreme gourmet cooking caused a back injury. Luckily for the crew this hasn’t slowed down his cooking.



1 large Dorado (Mahi Mahi) has been caught

1 small Dorado was caught but released

Numerous fish have goten away


Funny Anecdotes:

While the Skipper was on watch a flying fish flew over the gunnel and into his stomach, this slightly winded him.

Javier thought he saw a person in the water but it turned out to be a big turtle


Broken parts:

The water makers high pressure motor has given up – The hot showers I promised the crew have been replaced with salt water bird baths

Chaffing is occurring on barber haul sheets

The saloon table came loose and had to be removed



The rear water tank has been plumped into the mains system with its own water pump. Each tank can be isolated and we have redundancy in water tanks and pumps.

Due to the water maker giving up we are now using the low pressure water maker salt water pump as a water outlet over the sink and for showering.

Anti Chaff has been installed on the shrouds


TV shows watched:

The Skipper has watched the last 4 episodes of underbelly season 3

The Skipper is up to season 5 episode 8 of Breaking Bad and really wants to know what happens next!!!


TV shows to watch:

Underbelly season 4

Aircrash investigations season 11

Homeland season 1

Criminal Minds


Learning onboard:

Javier’s English is coming along very well – there are the occasional faulty towers moments when Javier AKA Manuel is talking about something completely different to us but we all nod agree and laugh together.

Dad and Pete have learnt about modern music but can’t help to complain about it – so there is a bit more learning required here.

The Skipper has learnt a lot more about navigating, great circles and where trade winds should be. Plus how to set up wind routing which none of us are convinced is very good. Also learning Spanish is coming along but somewhat slowly.



Well what can I say, Javier is amazing, he cooks amazing meals every time and we are exactly on track for a week’s worth of supplies, ready for week 2. We have enough Aussiemite and it is being used as a stock for Javier’s cooking.


Current position:

18 02N 36 19W

Miles completed: 1375NM

Miles to go: 1434nm

At the time of writing this we are almost half way to St Lucia.


Mood aboard

The mood is very upbeat with everyone getting well and in high spirits. There is a lot of happy sailing and jokes ongoing.


Nick Black



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Crossing the Atlantic in less than 24hrs

Charm Offensive and her crew are doing the last minute tweaks and final checks before we depart to cross the Atlantic.

Some of the tweaks and statistics include:
* 700 litres of water
* 280 litres of Diesel
* 60 eggs
* Fruit for 20 days for 4 people
* 12kg of meat
* Main Preventer
* New Kicker
* Bob stay installation
* New sheets
* New grounding for the HF radio
* Far 40 reaching Genoa
* Second Jib
* Anti chaff everywhere
* All the safety gear
* Strops on sails

If you would like to track Charm Offensive and the fleet, the link is:

And here is an article on Charm Offensive and AussieMite my sponsor:

Next update to be done in Saint Lucia. Hopefully in less than 19 days!



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Sailing with sheep and getting ready for the ARC

We had an interesting time in Rabat Morocco. I was the sickest I have been in years. I learnt that eating food from street stalls and salad washed with local water is a definite no go in Morocco. Adam, my first mate, ended his travels and Ben ended his holiday, and my Father joined Javier and I. Once I was better, we planned to sail to Las Palmas de Gran Caneria but as we sailed out of Rabat we passed a floating sheep. I should have known that this was going to be a bad omen for the trip but we pressed on. After 1 day of motoring, boom we were hit by a low pressure system from Hurricane Sandy. 35kts on the nose for 2 days and all hell broke loose.

Rabat Morocco was an amazing place to sail into. The port entry is a small sandbar with only 3 metres of water and the only way you can enter the port is with the pilot boat to ensure you take the deepest passage possible. We arrived outside the port at 8am and there was no reply from the pilot so we hung around for a few hour. Surely enough a pilot finally appeared and guided us safely through the entrance. As we entered Morocco we could hear praying from every direction. It was an interesting thing to hear as you enter a port. We then pulled up at the dock and waited 2hrs for Customs; I guess they were at prayers. They then came aboard, collected our papers and sent a dog to check for drugs. The dog looked like snoopy and more like someone’s pet than a drug enforcement dog. Snoopy spent a lot of time round the fridge, I suspect he was hungry and this was proved true when we left the port but I’ll talk about that later.

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, and has amazing market places where you can buy just about anything from turtles and iguanas to fake iphones, clothes, and toilets. The streets are absolutely packed with people and most people are very friendly wanting you to try their street food which I thought hey if they can eat it and not get sick why can’t I? Boy was I wrong, the next day I had a fever over 41 degrees and couldn’t move. This lasted for 3 days, then started to die off.  On the 5th day with some antibiotics I was ready to set sail for Las Palmas de Gran Caneria.

Morocco had just had their annual sheep sacrifice called Eid al-Adha which involved many sheep being sacrificed on the street, then cut up and given to the nation to eat. We left Rabat the day after this festival. Once again we waited hours for Customs and good old snoopy the customs dog. I had just cooked what I thought was a nice omelette with fresh produce. As snoopy boarded the boat I was told he had just gone to the toilet on the last boat he was on. I was happy that at least he wasn’t going to soil my boat. Snoopy then snooped around for a few minutes and then went straight for the omelette before the customs official or I could remove the plate. Half the omelette was in snoopy’s belly and the rest all over the floor. The customs official shrugged and that was the end of Snoopys snooping. Another omelette was made and quickly consumed by us before we left port.

The pilot boat escorted us out of the port and it appears that one of the sheep from Eid al-Adha had got away and had an untimely death on the Atlantic. As we left Rabat I had to pull hard to starboard to avoid hitting this floating sheep and to ensure the fishing line didn’t snag it. I should have known that was going to be a bad omen for the trip but as I don’t believe in that sort of thing I thought nothing of it. After 1 day of motoring we were hit by 35kts on the nose. We put all three reefs in the sail and changed to the storm jib. The storm jib then smashed the stopper off the end of the self-tacker track. In 35kts in the dark the self tacker blocks were smashing around in the wind. Javier and I had to quickly secure the blocks. We were pretty stuck with no where to pull into to so we setup a jury rig by tying the block with a line shorter than the self tacker track to get us under way. We had to run the engine and push up wind for the next few days. These days were probably up there as the worst passage to date. We smashed into big swells as we constantly changed direction to try and avoid putting too much pressure on the boat and rig as we dropped off waves. Aside from the self tacker the boat fared very well.

Agadir was an interesting harbour. I’m not sure how it was designed but there was a constant surge in the marina, a few people fell off the dock as they walked around. Not only did it constantly surge the water was full of dirt, rubbish, dead fish and had a layer of muck all over it. Our sinks clogged up the first day then the toilets and every other skin fitting clogged up. We had to be very careful to check the engine cooling as we left the port. Agadir Marina is not a place I would recommend going. Nor is their night life to be recommended. Javier and I went to a few night clubs but they were full of men and beers were 6 euros.

We meet a very nice Aussie couple in Agadir, Neil and Kerry, they had a catamaran from South Africa. She is a beautiful boat and flies downwind. They had sailed from South Africa to the Caribbean and back to the Med. After Agadir they were going to sail back to the Caribbean. We had a nice dinner with them and had birthday drinks for Neil’s Birthday.

As we left Agadir we had a nice breeze from the North which was perfect to go south. Sadly this breeze quickly died and we motored for the next day with a bit of sailing in between. We arrived at Lanzarote early in the morning and figured if we continue to sail this next 96 miles to Gran Caneria we will arrive at night. Instead we anchored in a beautiful bay and swam ashore. I found a boat hook in about 5 metres of water so dived down and got that then continued to the shore. This beach was a nudist beach but not clad with beautiful Europeans instead it had a more aged group of holiday goers, mostly largely overweight and probably in their 70’s. It wasn’t the nicest site so we just went for a quick jog for some exercise then swam back to the boat and ate some of the big fish we had just caught.

We left Lanzarote at 6pm and had one of the best sails of the trip, with 15-20kts at 90-120 degrees true and a swell behind us. We flew to Gran Caneria, our planned 14hr passage took less than 12hrs, with an average speed of 8kts and surfing speeds of up 12kts – it was awesome. Javier and I hand steered most of our shifts and it was an amazing feeling surfing down waves.

As we arrived way ahead of schedule we entered the port at night which was what were trying to avoid but with AIS it really isn’t an issue. We docked at the reception dock and could see hundreds of ARC boats already. We were all pretty excited seeing little X-yachts to 82ft Oysters and massive catamarans. Once we checked in we were taken to our berth and looked around the marina. The vibe here is amazing, there are people looking to cross the Atlantic everywhere and everyone is excited about the ARC. With 250 boats competing this year it’s going to be an amazing event. Thanks to Aussiemite which we will be eating across the Atlantic this event has become a reality for me and my crew. Javier has officially become the chef and he makes amazing Spanish meals using Aussiemite as the stock. The ARC has events and drinks on every night plus there are boats on the Marina having bbq’s and parties all the time. Last night Dad and I went to a bbq on a swan.

I have met some very nice local girls here, Mariahm and Patricia. Mariahm has been showing us around the island and they both helped us yesterday with some things around the boat. Thanks guys it is really great to have your help and for showing us around the island. We are planning to go for a sail and hopefully a downwind wakeboard early next week.

Aside from all of that it is all systems go here, something new is purchased almost every day, my bank balance is going down but Charm Offensive is adhering to some very stringent safety regulations and new parts are being added every day. Today we will add a bobstay and finish setting up the rest of the Safety gear.



From Good bye Spain, hello Morocco, the Atlantic and Canary Islands. Posted by Nick Black on 11/11/2012 (69 items)

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