The fast facts blog update of Charm Offensive

Since the last time the blog was updated we have:

  • Helped out as a safety yacht at the mini 650’s round the island race in Valencia
  • Had numerous crew changes
  • Sailed to Ibiza and Formentera a few times
  • Had it rain
  • Been to Denia
  • Eaten a lot of Peking duck
  • Meet some amazing people
  • Had some good sailing
  • Eaten some Aussiemite
  • Had some bad sailing
  • Lost a fish the size of a small person
  • Caught over 12 fish
  • Had a sick person
  • Been to Cartagena Benalmadena, Cadiz, and Morocco
  • Lost a bed sheet
  • Bought some new bed sheets
  • Eaten a sea Urchin

In Valencia Charm Offensive was the official safety vessel for the Mini 650 Around the Island race. The mini 650 is a 6.5m racing yacht; the proto version has a canting keel, water ballasts and carbon rig. People cross the Atlantic single handedly in these little boats. Charm Offensive and her crew followed the race from Valencia to Ibiza, Formentera and then back to Valencia. It was a great experience organised by an Australian called Bret Perry. It was good to learn some of the aspects required to organise an offshore sailing race. We gave position updates every 6 hours.

In Valencia we had a crew change where Josh left and Craig joined us. Sadly when this happened we were stuck in port due to some bad weather with winds up to 45kts. Luckily we were in the Marina but sadly it was not a great start to Craig’s Holiday. From then on we helped out with the sailing event. After the event Wazza left and Ben, Carly and Penny came to join us. We then sailed to Denia for an excellent meal of Tapas before Carly’s boyfriend met us and we sailed to Formentera and Ibiza. At Ibiza we went to the closing party of Blue Marlin which is a beach club. This was good fun and we meet Murphy who was the local boat driver, he would come and pick you up from the boat then take you to the club. If you got him started on fishing you could be there for hours.

As Carly and Penny did not fare so well on the open ocean they decided to get a plane back and we spent the next night in the dreaded San Antonio that has a very good Peking duck. We went there specifically for the Peking duck which did not disappoint. As the summer season had ended it was a lot quieter than our previous trip.

From there we went back to Denia to get the mast head halyard that was repaired (again). Some solar panels were also delivered to the boat to try and help me with my power hungry electronics. I know I could just stop watching movies or using the internet but I like to feel like I’m at home when at sea. Plus all the power requirements and telco network keeps my brain active for my return to work in 9 months time. So where was I? Yes, Denia, Craig got off the boat in Denia and the trio of  Adam, Ben and I continued on to Cartagena. In Cartagena we visited some Roman ruins and spent the day looking at the cultural aspects of the city such as the Maritime museum and castles. I pointed out to Ben and Adam that we were culture vultures. They laughed and said if you say “culture vulture” you can’t be all that cultural.

From Cartagena we sailed to Benalmadena to meet Javier who is one of my crew members for the Atlantic crossing. We went to the best all you can Chinese restaurant that had all you can eat Peking duck. I was in duck heaven! We meet some very nice Romanian girls that night and left the next morning to cross Gibraltar and sail to Cadiz.

Crossing Gibraltar was not nearly as challenging as we were expecting, there was a bit of current against us for about 4hrs then we had current with us all the way to Cadiz. On that Journey a fish the size of Jaws latched on to our lure and pulled all the 200m of line from the fishing rod. Adam tried to fight it and Javier tried to manoeuvre the boat but in the end the line ended up getting caught all around the keel. On the entry to Cadiz an hour was spent getting the lines untangled. In Cadiz we meet some nice girls from Galicia Spain who we shared a table with at Tapas.

We left Cadiz the following morning and set sail for Africa. After 24hrs of sailing and catching over 12 big fish we made it Rabat Morocco. I must add our fridge is now completely full of fish. Does anyone have any good and varied recipes for tuna?

At the Marina in Rabat we were searched by dogs and customs before being put in a nice marina berth. We have explored the Moroccan markets next to the marina which are amazing and filled with fresh food, cheap clothes, and just about any fake mobile phone you want.

Tomorrow my father will come to the boat and we will plan our next trip to Las Palmas de Gran Canarias before getting ready to cross the Atlantic.

Captain Nick

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Life aboard Charm Offensive – Video Blog by Josh Thomas

Josh Thomas, one of my former crew members made a video blog while he was aboard.



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Mallorca, New friends, Parachuting, Ibiza

A lot has happened since the last blog update. We sailed to Mallorca, we meet some nice French girls, we went aground in Magaluf, we sailed to Cabrera, we used a military parachute to sail downwind back to Ibiza. I got an outboard engine from a character of a Mexican called Alex who had cruised the world on his catamaran for 17yrs. We meet some nice English people who took us wakeboarding behind their 38ft 660hp cruiser off Formentera and Adam is 1yr older. Happy B’day Adam!

In Mallorca we sailed to a beautiful little bay off Palma and we went for a nice Tapas meal. At the restaurant we meet lots of interesting people. We meet some people from Norway who were on a long weekend, some people from New Zealand who knew my parents neighbours and some nice French girls Aurore and Heloise who we went for a drink with. They then came for a sail from Palma to Magaluf. I can tell that pronouncing Aurore in French correctly is nearly impossible. The only way I could remember to say it correctly was by saying eww roar which was still wrong but as close as I could get. They we were really nice and great fun, it was great to meet them.

Aground! I heard come through my dream in a somewhat high pitched squeal and then I woke to find we were actually aground and Adam was screaming get up. The anchor had dragged and we were in 2m of water, lucky on a bed of soft sea weed and sand. I jumped out of bed and ran to the helm. It was a shame as it was the one time I hadn’t swam on the anchor to check it was set correctly nor had I set the anchor alarm. A dumb thing but the reason was that we had only planned to stay in Magaluf for the day and not overnight. So with everyone on deck the thought of no tide in the med was running through my mind. Then I thought we have to heel the boat over as hard as far as we can, Josh then said let’s get the main up, a brilliant idea! The main wasn’t even near halfway up and we sailed smoothly off our sea bed. Then as we got into 4 metres of water bang the anchor grabbed and pulled the front of the boat around. I yelled get it up but the crew couldn’t as it was sitting over the bulb on the keel. As water depth was increasing and most of the anchor was up we continued to motor slowly away from the shallow water and then I jumped over and dived down to remove the anchor. I also inspected the keel and rudder. A small bit of antiful had rubbed off the bottom of the rudder and keel, the rest of the boat was fine. Phew! I always try to put out 5 times the depth in anchor chain but this time I think we were a bit light on. This will not happen again.

From Mallorca we sailed to Cabrera which is a beautiful little island and Spanish National Park. We picked up a mooring put on our hiking boots and went ashore. Firstly we hiked up a hill to a small fort that protected the bay. We climbed into the fort and the view from there was absolutely amazing. After a taste for hiking we decided to go further and we did a 10km hike to a light house on the other side of the Island. The view was amazing it looked like a pirate’s cove with an abundance of fish and jellyfish. The island was formerly used to house French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars. Of the 9000 people sent there only 3600 survived. Cabrera remained as a military zone until the 1980’s.

From Cabrera we sailed back to Ibiza. We needed to sail directly downwind which was a perfect time to test out the military parachute. It was good fun hoisting and seeing it set. It looked like a jellyfish moving in and out and floating from port to starboard in front of the boat. The parachute was connected to the mast head halyard and we made a downhaul from the self tacker sheet that worked surprisingly well. In 12kts of wind at 180 degrees with no main up it pulled us along at 4kts. The next step is to try and use it in 20kts. Hopefully it will pull the boat along at around 8kts. For that I will probably connect it to the toping lift.

This time in Ibiza we went to Ibiza Town and not the dreaded San Antonio. The Marina was expensive but the location excellent. The first night we wanted to have an Asian food fix so we walked around for hours till we stumbled across a Thai restaurant. The Thai food really hit the spot. The next night was Adams birthday, Adam relaxed and I spent the day designing a solar power system for the boat. I have ordered a controllable regulator and 200watts of solar panels. If they work well I will order another 200watts. This will hopefully keep the batteries charged and the crew happy by ensuring the home media system can be run when off shift while crossing the Atlantic.

“All good sailors and good boats go rotten in port”

“1 boat, 2 wives’s, 3 children”

Those were just some of the quotes by Alex who I meet in Ibiza through Diego, one of my previous crew members. Alex was from Mexico and had spent 17 years cruising and sailing the world. Some of his stories were amazing like the time he spent cruising Australia. After 6 months of cruising he had one of the two engines left and as he approached Yamba then Bang! The last engine blew up. He then sailed his catamaran up the river and somehow docked it in the Marina. As soon as he docked customs were on his boat and said you have to pay duty on your boat, after some negotiation he found out that if he went back to Mexico and got a transit visa or something like that then he could keep cruising. He flew to Mexico and as things were starting to fall into place he had a call from customs saying he had 48hrs to remove his boat from Australia or pay customs. After hours of negotiation with customs he decided to get on a plane and fly back to Aus. He arrived at the port and customs said what are you going to do, he said sail out of here, they laughed and said you have no engines. After provisioning Alex said watch me and sailed out. He then sailed for 15 days on his own with no engines, no fridge, minimal electricity, no autopilot. He just set the sails, tightened the steering, salted his meat, waxed his fruit and he was cruising. This is pretty amazing considering we have every electrical device under the sun plus a big fridge and freezer. Alex gave me a 5hp outboard engine. He figured what goes around comes around. It was very kind, Thanks Alex!

At the Marina in Ibiza we meet some really nice English people, Ian, Gary, and there partners. We started chatting and shared the same humour talking about boating and then the Inbetweeners (English TV comedy). We started making some comparisons between the 4 of us and the 4 in the Inbetweeners. We are not convinced but still debating who is who. The English people had a 38ft cruiser with 660hp of power that cruised at 28kts. I told them about our wakeboard and how amazing it would be to wakeboard behind their cruiser. Ian thought yeah that sounds cool and we meet them in Formentera with wakeboard and rope in hand. We then did a highly risky dinghy person swap. We swapped the ladies from the cruiser for Wazza and I. In the swap the girls got a few bruises and Wazza fell overboard and lost his Prada sun glasses. Ouch! Once we had completed the swap it was time to wakeboard. It was choppy as hell but great fun wakeboarding up and down Formentera behind a cruiser throwing a massive wake. The ladies enjoyed a nice sail and we gave them all some Aussiemite. Thank you Ian, we had an awesome time.

Now my blog is up to date and we are moored in a beautiful bay off Formentera. Josh has just cooked a nice Pesto pasta and it’s time for dinner.

Bon appétit

Captain Nick

From Mallorca, Cabrera, Ibiza, Formentera. Posted by Nick Black on 9/23/2012 (151 items)

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Nick does Nerd Talk + Sailing to Mallorca from Ibiza

We left Ibiza with a nice 12 kts of wind from behind, averaged at least 8kts over the ground up the east side of Ibiza and set sail for Palma, our first night was spent in a beautiful bay with crystal clear water. It was 12 metres deep and my basic rule after speaking to Peter Smith is to put out 5 times the depth in anchor chain. We put out 60 metre of anchor chain and were secure all night in up 15kts of wind. The night was windy and the wind gen went nuts keeping the batteries topped up but still not enough to stop the power going backwards. The fridge and freezer draw at least 10 amps and the wind gen on average pumps around 5 amps.

I have spent a lot of time working out the electronics on this boat. Currently we have 5 iPods, 6 iphones, 4 laptops, a 32 inch tv screen, 3 terabytes of media, a high gain 3G antenna (55 db of gain). All this gear keeps me extremely busy, working out how to transition it from 240 volts to 12 volt is a full time job on its own. The reason I want to do this is that running the 1600watt inverter is extremely inefficient. Stepping up 12volts to 240 volts is a good way to waste power. I ran 12 volts cables to the starboard side of the boat which also has a huge voltage drop. Using 2.5 square mill cable appears to drop the voltage by at least 1 volt from the port of the boat. This means the 11.89 volts is not enough to get the hard disks stepped in. I would assume this is due to back EMF on starting the electric motors in the hard disks (An Electrical Engineer would know more). Even though I did 2 years of basic electronics my Telecommunications degree setup me up better for signal theory and now multi protocol label switching . I have been thinking a lot about what I can do to rectify the issue of using 240 and not waste power. My solution is one of two either design and create my own DC inverter/buy one or install thicker cable. I have found a supplier of relatively cheap DC voltage invertors so I will be purchasing a few of those. The plan is then to run the boat media equipment from the DC invertor.

I will then install a full time computer to run chart plotting software that is relayed to the 32in HD screen on HD channel 2. This is kind of cool as if you’re off shift you will be able to see exactly where we are and know our speed and heading. Now I have an issue with keeping the power charged. It may be time to invest in 300 watts of solar panels and some more wind generators. This will allow me to save on diesel and have a fully self sufficient boat. Using only the wind and sun to keep it powered up.

As for the wireless network on the boat, at its peak with 6 people on the boat I have had 19 subscribers. No small feat for a 44ft boat. I pre designed the network to run off 12 volts and it is working well. So well that I actually have people row up to the boat and ask to use the net in return for beer. I should run my own ISP. Not something I am so keen to do though. The network has a firewall to keep all systems secure. I have set it up open on the LAN (local side) to share media but on the WAN (internet side) no incoming connections are allowed. As each country requires a new 3G connection I now have a collection of over 10 sim cards and growing. It is interesting that some countries have set up their networks so that the network works out that you are tethering and sharing your connection, they then disconnect you and say that it is not allowed. The best option is to make sure you get a data package not an unlimited smart phone package. This can be more costly but worth it. I believe the way the provider works out that the connection is being shared is through deep packet inspection. As all the connections use network address translation I don’t think they could work it out from the IP address.
Any way that is all for Nick does nerd talk. I will attach some photos of all the equipment soon.


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Malaga to Ibiza – Wakeboarding and fun in the Sun

Our next leg was from Malaga to Ibizia.

We welcomed our two new crew members, Josh and Alice .
Josh’s main concern was our red wine supply. I resisted his pressure to pull into every port to replenish.

Our twenty four hour journey involved smashing up wind into big waves with wind speeds of 25-30knots.This phase ended dramatically as a loud explosion indicated that the block holding the jib had given way.

At this point, much to Josh’s delight, I decided to pull into a port called Almerimar. A lovely city with skiable mountains behind a much used backdrop for Hollywood Westerns.

Josh indulged his shopping fetish, which also includes towels. They will not go amiss, should he decide to leave his collection with the boat.

Another long haul of 48hrs and we reached Ibiza. Josh, decided that the safest place for us was a super tanker highway with super tankers flying back and forth each side of us. He is right, it is safe but not the kind of place, I normally choose to sail.

After more hard up wind sailing we had no wind so motored for around 12hrs. This was the time to try wakeboarding behind the yacht. Josh had asked if I wanted anything from Aus and I had somewhat unreasonably asked for my wakeboard. Being such a great and kind friend, he obliged even though he was thinking more along the lines of Tim Tams or Aussiemite.

Much to our delight wakeboarding with the rope attached to a halyard from the top of the mast under engine at 8.5kts worked. I think this may be a world first for wakeboarding behind a Hanse 445. We are now waiting for the right pressure to try it out on a broad reach at 10kts.

Ibiza is a beautiful island but the night life at the big clubs is not for me. It is interesting to see how some people party there. They think nothing of spending 60 euros on entry, 18 euros on a bourbon and coke and 10 euros for a small bottle of water to be smashed against people, while you dance and go deaf.

We are staying in San Antonio which is not the nicest place, English people gone mad, like a constant schoolies with all its ugliness.

A day of relief from Ibiza involved sailing to a nice beach. Alice took charge of the boat on the way back and sailed us up wind gaining on a Jeanneau 45 and pointing probably 15 degrees higher them. Very pleasing!

Wazza is now on the boat and Alice and Diego have left.

We plan to sail to Fromentera, Palma and then Valencia, where we will be volunteering the boat to help out with the round the island race, mini 650 sailors in Valencia.

Video Post Card by Josh Thomas

From Malaga to Ibiza. Posted by Nick Black on 9/15/2012 (47 items)

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Gourmet Sailor

We picked up Nikki and Geoff in Lisbon. We were sad to see Daniel go but at the same time it always exciting to get new crew. Geoff is a seasoned ocean racer and owns half of Calibre a Sydney 38. It was a big change for Geoff to transition to cruising. An autopilot had been a myth in the past and self tacking was just out of this world. I must say he acclimatised very quickly to red wine, antipasto and Aussiemite while looking for fishing nets at a cruise speed of 8 kts down wind. It was a sharp contrast to his recent sail to Southport. He gave up the 20kt cruise speeds, long hours on shift, 30kt winds and cold weather for electric winches, autopilot, movie nights, fine wine, hot weather, hot showers, and gourmet food. Nikki was at home straight away looking after Gourmet meals and making sure the crew always had a smile on their face through exciting banter and looking at the Amazing photos she had taken throughout the day. We were really spoilt by Geoff and Nikki’s culinary expertise and generosity – Thanks Guys!

We flew down the coast of Portugal to Lagos with a comfortable 17kts of wind at about 140 degrees and the gennaker up. We were doing 9kts at times and averaged over 8kts throughout the trip while enjoying the fine wine and tasty cuisines of Portugal. It appeared our trip had quickly transitioned quickly from cold weather to warm sun and gourmet foods. It looks like the hard yards of beating up wind in 30kts with 7 degree temperatures were finally behind us.

We farewelled Pete in Lagos, he was a real asset to our team, excellent sailor, great story teller and good teacher. Thanks Pete we learnt a lot and really enjoyed your company.

After Lagos we sailed to Gibraltar, the crew and I were very excited to see Africa and Europe at the same time. With Adam the part time navigator and Nikki the full time negotiator we were convinced we had to step foot in Africa. As the pressure had just built to 30kts and the straight was still 4hrs away I made the decision that we would go to Morocco but after a good night’s sleep in Gibraltar.

We had an eventful night in Gibraltar, finding ourselves in a circular quay which was supposedly an anchorage but more like a super tankers turning circle we decided to find a marina. We then found ourselves at the start of our night mare right back at the stinky marina we started at. Morning broke, only to awake to the ash and the soot of the town of Gibraltar all over the deck. H2S used for cracking crude oil flooded the environment and caused us to discover a new found reflex, not to mention the new gag reflex.

We got out of that hell hole quickly to set sail for Africa and to venture into Morocco for some Tagine delights; yes we are still on the Gourmet part of this trip. As we ventured across the straight we played chicken with super tankers. We were all excited to be going to Africa and Morocco especially Diego and Nikki who both had huge smiles on their faces. Those smiles dimmed as we were informed we were in a Spanish port called Ceuta which actually turned out perfectly as we could have the boat safely moored in the Marina and walk across the border to Morocco.

Morocco was interesting to see, very busy and good markets. After a big day of getting lost in Morocco, eating Tagine, shopping in Markets, drinking mint tea and just marvelling at a different country and culture we decided it was time to head back to the boat. Crossing the border back to Ceuta was interesting as firstly we walked around in circles looking for the correct line. Then after what felt like an eternity us Australians were allowed back in to Spain but the Customs official had made a mistake on Diego who is from Mexico. They had put down that Diego was from Argentina and he was in the computer system as an Argentinean with a Mexican passport. This caused all types of Chaos for the Moroccan customs officer. After the customs officer had finished his cigarette which he smoked at his desk he then went off with Deigo’s passport only to return 20 minutes later with some other excuse and another guy with another cigarette, once they finished their second cigarette they explained what had happened and showed us that Diego was Argentinean in Morocco then rectified the problem and let us back to Ceuta.

From Morocco we sailed to Malaga in Spain where we dropped off Geoff and Nikki and picked up Josh and Alice. To break in our new crew we went out for a massive night on the town then had a comfortable but hung over 20 mile motor to Torres Del Mar. Where is the wind? The Med appears to have little to no wind so we are heading way out off Spain to try and find some. Our plan is to have an overnight sail to Las Negras or somewhere round there on our way to Ibiza for the much anticipated end of summer parties.



From Portugal, Morocco, Spain. Posted by Nick Black on 9/05/2012 (118 items)

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England, The Olympics, Friends, and Aussiemite

Since the last update we had just left Antwerp on route to Brighton, we are now in Portugal and had an absolutely amazing sail from London to Lisbon but that blog will have to wait. Sorry for being slack but I will cover off England first then blog about our trip to Portugal and will endeavour to be more up to date in the future.

Crossing the English Channel was not quite as challenging as we first thought. It was actually nothing compared to going past the Entry of Rotterdam. There were super tankers but not nearly as many as Rotterdam. My first sight of England was the white cliffs of Dover which were nice. We then continued down the coast to Brighton which was a great sail but heading into the Marina was not. We were told by Brighton Marina that the channel is dredged to 2m at low tide and it would be fine to enter at 1.5m above low tide which should have given us a comfortable 1.5m below the keel. We came in on an ebb tide running sideways at 2.5kts and steep 3ft waves. As we rounded the corner I called to Adam to watch the depth closely. He said where fine 2m then a second later screamed oh shit 0.2m below the keel. Before he had yelled I heard the alarm go off and slammed the diesel into full throttle reverse. The engine groaned and every one asleep was on deck quick smart. As we hit the trough of a wave we touched the ground then as the wave height increased we started to get traction and we moved backwards. I just kept the throttle flat stick as waves smashed over the stern I could see the depth increase. We then circled the entry to Marina for the next 6hrs till the tide was over 4m above low. With a tired crew and the tide near high we decided to go for it again. As we came through the tight entrance the waves we were starting to break at which stage we were at the point of no return. The stern lifted up, the wave broke and we made it safely into Brighton Marina. After one of the most stressful experiences on this trip the Marina put us in a berth that would have left us high and dry on low tide so we had to re moor in another berth. I would advise anyone wanting to go to Brighton Marina to specifically ask for a deep berth.

Brighton was a nice little town; we started off with some boat maintenance and the final piece of the puzzle for the desalinator (some tubing). The desalinator is an interesting piece of equipment, it produces 60 bar (approx 870 PSI) of pressure to work and then pumps through 32 litres of water per hour. To do this it draws 32 amps. After all the pieces were installed much to my father’s happiness (project manager and tradesman for this installation) it worked perfectly. We can now make fresh water to within 320 ppm depending on the salt water going in.

After two full 10hr days of boat work and new installations it was time to relax and plan the sail up the Thames to spread some Aussiemite and cheer on our fellow Olympians. It also gave us some time to catch up with friends in the U.K. Rosie the sister in law of Peter Hrones the Director of Team Windcraft who I purchased my Hanse 445 through is a friend of mine and she came to visit with a friend of hers Veronika. They were great fun and took Dad and I out for a pork Roast and crackling at the local pub called the Royal sovereign. EJ the chef made an unbelievably tasty meal which was kindly given to us for free. We were very grateful and ate every last bit of extra crackling washed down with Heineken beer. I was keen to see the rest of the local pubs in Brighton but it appeared the mix of roast pork, crackling, and beer caused sudden drowsiness so we headed back to the boat for a well needed sleep.

The next day another friend of mine Jenna came to visit, she kindly showed me round Brighton then we drove to the Jack and Jill windmills and through the English country side. As I had never been to the U.K. before I was surprised to see so much country side, I assumed the country was more densely populated. I was presently surprised with the amazingly beautiful country side. We then went to Jenna’s parent’s place which is in a beautiful little village called Lindfield. Jenna’s parents greeted us with a refreshing pims before we continued on the whirl wind tour of the English country to Hunting lodge (Henry VII’s hunting lodge) and then Ardingly Reservoir which is used for sailing. All in all it was a very enjoyable day, thanks Jenna!

The next day thanks to Aussiemite our yacht sponsor we had been offered a berth at St Katharines dock right near the tower bridge. We left Brighton with 15kts from the South east put out the Gennaker and absolutely flew up the English Channel towards the Thames. As we entered the Thames customs were on us quick smart. They asked to hop aboard and as usual we let them, after I asked them about their dry suits they were very friendly and asked us all the usual questions about what we all do why we were here etc. The customs then asked where we had been and we said Brighton, they were amazed and informed us we had illegally been in England but it wasn’t our fault. The marina was meant to send someone down to the boat to immigrate us. Due to our lack of legality in this commonwealth country we had to sail to a place called Gravesend and clear custom. We had good banter with the customs officials discussing the Olympics, they were very happy to be kicking our arse. They then kindly offered us still illegal immigrants the service of rebating all our VAT on the boat parts that I had bought in Brighton. I took them up on the offer as they handed us back our passports and said welcome legally to England.

As this was my first time it London it was an amazing experience to be able to sail into almost the centre of London. As we came up to the tower bridge with the Olympics rings proudly perched up high we turned to starboard and Entered St Katharines dock. Here we were greeted with cartons of tasty Aussiemite. We opened the Aussiemite and got stuck right in, we had it with Bree and added it to sautéed mushrooms which was very tasty.

Thursday on the boat was spent relaxing and getting ready for a press breakfast for Aussiemite and a party with friends. The breakfast for the Press, Matt, Jan, and Tahlia from the Government of South Australia office of the Agent General went very well. An hour later I was pleasantly surprised with a case of Coopers – Thanks guys!

Then it was party time for friends from high school and uni. It was nice to have Carly, Penny, Anna, Phil, John, Tony, and Rosie + some of their friends aboard for some coopers, Aussiemite and drinks. The boat had around 20+ people with the music pumping, booze flowing and conversation peaking. A good time was had by all and after Security told us 4 times to move downstairs we finally did and continued into the wee hours of the morning. We had 15+ people downstairs with my father sound asleep in the front cabin. Much to everyone’s surprise he slept through the loud music and conversation. It’s amazing how many people you can fit inside a Hanse 445. I mean no one could move but we could still breathe and dance!

The next morning Diego and I my new crew member woke up to find the saloon floor black, as we re-caped the night we started to clean. Within an hour the yacht was ship shape and ready for us to explore the town. After a bit of Aussiemite on bread we went to Hyde park to catch up with Carly and Penny and watch the Olympics.  We got bored sitting still pretty quick so Carly took Diego and I on the Boris bikes for a world wind tour of London. We rode down through Mayfair down regents and oxford st and then went to Piccadilly for some nice food. It was a serious highlight – Thanks Carly

After that we travelled to South bank to what is called a pop up bar, a pop up bar is exactly what it sounds like it’s a bar that pops up for a few weeks then disappears. The vibe was brilliant with Brazilians dancing on the side of the Thames. Diego and I met Fadwa and Amy from Surrey who I invited sailing and Fadwa came with us after they did some thorough research online to ensure we weren’t crazy, Fadwa still wasn’t convinced but she decided to come with a friend. So the crew was now seven – Me, Adam, Pete, Daniel, Diego, Fadwa and Dowwa. Fadwa and Dowwa were both really nice and helped make the time pass quickly as we compared different cultures from Australia, England, Morocco and Mexico. When we arrived in Brighton the girls had to return to land and head home. It was sad to see them go.

The next few days were spent getting the engine serviced and yacht provisioned. We purchased some spinnaker gear to fly Ian Boxes spinnaker in the right breeze. We also bought 8 days worth of food for our trip to Lisbon in Portugal. We are now in Lisbon and we very nicely welcomed by Geoff and Nikki. As I said above the blog update for our trip to Lisbon and good times in Lisbon is next on the list.

A big thank you to Carly, Penny, Anna, Phil, Tony, John, Jenna, Diana, Fadwa, Rosie, Veronika, David Morris, Aussiemite, Team Windcraft, The Government of South Australia Office of the Agent General  and everyone else that made myself and my crews time in London absolutely unforgettable.



Captain Nick

“Sailing up the Thames and England”

From England, London, Brighton, The Thames, parties and sailing. Posted by Nick Black on 8/24/2012 (51 items)

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Charm Offensive makes it safely to Amsterdam

After a 30hr sail from Germany in what felt like sub zero temperatures we arrived at a nice place in Holland called Ijmuiden. I had been wearing thermals, ski gloves and a beanie on the way from Germany and it was good to finally have some summer. When we arrived it was now time for thongs and and a singlet!  It was a big marina and beach destination for people in Amsterdam so there was a lot going on. We went straight to pub for some burgers and a beer. A nice relaxation after a few days at sea.

The following day we motored/sailed up the canal to the centre of Amsterdam. This was somewhat eventful. After passing through the main lock we were chased by police. The police fully armed came up along side and told us to move a little to starboard (to the right) of the channel. Then they went on there way. I then decided it would be a good idea to set sail so after a long discussion with Phil as to whether we were allowed to hoist it, which ended in hoisting it, we were sailing down the canal. Within 5 minutes we had another speed boat with flashing lights coming towards us at a rate of Knots. Phil said I told we couldn’t sail, as they got closer we realized they were also armed but where not police. This high powered vessel was the Dutch customs. They asked if they could board the yacht and I asked if I needed to bring the sail in. Much to my amazement they said no keep motoring and sailing. I quickly said of course come aboard, can I offer you a drink to which they declined. They had a million questions but joked a lot, they wanted to see everything from my export papers, to the color of the diesel. I was confused when they asked to see the diesel but later found out that red diesel is sold tax free in Holland and it is only for commercial use, it is illegal for private vessels to hold. Luckily our diesel was from Germany and it was a yellow type colour. After about an hour with customs they left and we had almost arrived in the centre of Amsterdam.

The centre of Amsterdam was amazing, there were ferries and funny little boats every where. We had the Australian flag flapping patriotically in the summer breeze. Lots of people waved and smiled as we motored past. After motoring past the central station we took a hard turn to port (left) and came to a marina called Six Haven that was directly opposite Amsterdam’s central station. The marina was like nothing I had ever seen before. Boats packed in like sardines and no room to swing a cat. The harbor master came out to the dock to meet us and said take this spot. As my skills at reversing and forward parking were some what refined from parking in 20+ knots of I wind I went for the birth at full speed. We got half way through the pylons before we hit them on each side and got wedged in the birth. This was somewhat interesting as I didn’t think the birth would be so tight. We then reversed out and took a spot that parked three boats in but I  was told this is nothing. The yacht master was right. Within about one hour we had another 4 boats along side us with people climbing back and forth over the deck to get to the Marina. It was an interesting experience and luckily the wedging of the boat didn’t do any damage.

That night we meet up with a friend of a friend. A friend of Nikki’s whose name was Nathan. Nathan is a native Ducthman and was extremely friendly, helpful, and fun. He showed us round all of Amsterdam and took us to a very good local place for dinner. We were all keen to see the red light and district and he kindly took us through there as well. Thank you very much to Nathan it really made for an Amazing tour of Amsterdam!

We are leaving for Antwerp tomorrow for 90 miles of the North Sea and 50 miles of Canal to go a big dance party called Tomorrowland.

From The North Sea and Amsterdam. Posted by Nick Black on 7/24/2012 (21 items)

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Charm Offensive gets sponsored by Aussiemite

Charm Offensive has been sponsored by Aussiemite a delicous savory spread.

Aussiemite is:
* GM & Gluten free
* Rich source of Vitamin B
* 100% Australian made & owned
* Sourced from responsible farming practices in Australia
* Free of nasty or artificial colours & preservatives (incl. e220)

In addition to being highly nutritious, AussieMite offers a richer, mellower taste, created for the modern palate, while retaining the unique and distinct flavour of yeast spreads. All of our taste-tests have been a huge success in Australia and abroad as many love the distinct flavour of AussieMite.

Look for Aussemite on your local supermarket shelves!

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The Boat

Thanks to Windcraft and Hanse I have purchased and thus been able to sail from Griefswald Germany to Sydney Australia on a brand new Hanse 445. I wil be naming the boat Charm Offensive as I feel that will give her an Australian identity. Here are some shots of the boat.


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