Preparing Velvet Lady for an ocean passage

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The guests arrive this evening for our 16 night trip from Isafjord in northern Iceland to Plymouth, UK.  The total distance is approx 1350 nm if we were to go in a straight line, and we are hoping to see a bit of Iceland before we leave so we are allowing 16 days.

Planning for this length of passage becomes second nature after you have done it many times, but seems a bit overawing when you are planning your first trip as there is so much to do.

For 7 days in the passage across the north Atlantic ocean between Iceland and northern Scotland we will be out of reach of land, and not able to just pop in somewhere to fill up with water, fuel, food etc.  We carry 1500 litres of water, and if that runs out we have a water maker.  We carry 600 litres of diesel, enough to motor 600 miles – we use the motor on those days that the wind does not let us make our ‘minimum speed’ of 4.5 knots.  We use gas to cook on and will be starting out with our two bottles full.

We have a full crew this trip, 4 guests, skipper and mate, and a main concern is to make sure we do not run out of food.  Velvet Lady is lucky to have a fridge and a freezer, that work both on shore power and when the engine is running, so we can take a good amount of fresh produce with us.  We always like to eat well at sea both for the energy and morale boosting qualities of good food and so do a lot of meal preparations before we leave.  Instead of being reduced to biscuits in a gale, we can open the freezer and reheat home made stew, bolognaise sauce, chilli etc.  But just like any fridge, we do have a finite amount of space, so we also carry a lot of dried, vacuum packed and tinned food.  We keep our goodie cupboard packed with chocolate, sweets and biscuits for those dark night watches as well as crisps and nuts for those who prefer savoury snacks. When the weather is good we bake bread and cakes to supplement our supplies.

Our longest job before a crossing is not just the visit to the supermarket, but also planning the menu before hand, conveying the food from the shop to the boat, and then ‘finding’ places to stow it.  With limited cupboard space in the actual galley we keep jars and bottles behind seat backs, under the floors, in drawers under the seats, and any other cupboard space we can find.  Remembering where it all is, is quite a challenge. 

Bonus, the largest supermarket in Isafjord, opens daily at 12.30.  Yesterday we were there as the doors opened.  It was quiet when we arrived but when we had finished stacking our 4 trolleys 3 hours later there we caused quite a log jam.  The taxi driver kindly helped us unload the shopping bags directly on board – really valuable help as the boat was about 3 foot below the dock.  We worked like crazy and had all the food stowed by 17.30. 

With the stores safely on board, we have been checking our charts, safety equipment, and deck equipment and stowing all loose articles for sea.  As this will now be our 11th ocean crossing on Velvet Lady we have a very thorough inventory.  We carry all the equipment required by the MCA for an ocean passage and more!

I have been watching weather maps for the past week, watching the progress of the Lows across the Atlantic.  There is one forecast to be centred over Iceland on Tuesday.  Having an idea of the predicted weather in advance helps in the route planning.  When leaving Iceland, we have to depart from an official port of departure where we can complete customs formalities.  As we wish to see some of the westfjords first, we have to plan in a final visit to a clearance port.  At the moment the weather suggests that Heimay in the Westmann Islands would be a possibility.  This is an ideal place, as it is the most southerly port on our route, and gives us the chance to top up on bread, milk, fresh veg and anything else we might need. 

We receive weather forecasts on board Velvet Lady in text form by navtex from Iceland Met Office and by Sat C from the UK Met Office.  We also print synoptic charts and prognosis weather charts using our weatherfax. We will continue to get weather forecasts at least twice daily and of course we are constantly monitoring the clouds and the barometer. 

Just before we leave Iceland, we will clear customs, take the dinghy out of the davits and stow it, top up our tanks, buy some last minute fresh milk and report our journey to the coastguard.  Then we will begin watches and sail southwards, admiring the glaciers as they disappear behind us.

It has started going dark here now.  Last night we had about 3 hours of total darkness.  As we sail further south that will rapidly increase.  I’ve got my fingers crossed and hope that we might see the northern lights before we get too far south! 
 

Looking after Velvet Lady

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Just like a house or a car Velvet Lady needs lots of preventative maintenance.  In addition like any other woman she likes to be pampered with new things and look good.  Keeping her up to scratch and looking good is very important to us as she is our home and our livelihood. When we write our sailing programmes we take all that into account.  We allow 3 days between trips to keep on top of small maintenance and cleaning, and also build in regular ‘refit schedules’.  Fortunately we are both pretty handy on the maintenance front and whenever we have unexpected ‘gaps’ in our programme due to no bookings we continue with jobs.

Although sailing is our main passion, for a break Richards never more happy than when he’s varnishing, and I love getting all greasy and dirty stripping and servicing winches.  A good job too, because there are plenty of both on Velvet Lady.

This last week Richard has been varnishing and working below and I have been busy on the deck with winches, blocks, ropes etc.  Once the varnish is wet and there is nowhere to move, Richard has been making use of the dockside for jobs like servicing the outboard. The evenings we spend in the internet café filling up virtual shopping baskets with goodies for Velvet Lady’s future upkeep.

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We enjoy our May and September visits to Plymouth, as this gives us the opportunity to collect our ‘shopping’. Sometime it feels just like Christmas.  As well as our internet shopping this September we also have a new sail waiting for us.  Velvet Lady is programmed to come out of the water in Lanzarote in December and so our shopping list also includes antifouling, paint rollers, paper overalls, deck paint, polish, anodes etc. 

Velvet Lady’s wish list is never ending and we have an ongoing plan to keep updating her equipment.  We spend many happy hours pouring over catalogues and coming up with ideas – and planning them into the budget.

We think Velvet Lady is now in even better condition than when she came out of her major refit last year in March as we have continued to improve her. Our hard work is often rewarded, and we always feel proud when guests and visitors admire her.  Whilst we have been working this last week there have been 3 cruise liners in Isafjord including the QE2 and many of their passengers have been over to talk to us and are interested in our plans.  We now keep brochures on the quayside!

We’ll be packing up the tools and varnish soon and beginning to prepare for our passage back to UK which is fully booked. Yet again we have had a brilliant summer in Iceland and are looking forward to chasing the sunshine south!

Read Velvet Lady Guest Book

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We are coming to the end of our Iceland season now and I was flicking through Velvet Lady Guest Book.  Thought you might like to take a look at some of the comments from our recent trips 

The sailing is extremely good with as much or little involvement as you hope for. Lin and Richard are informative, experienced and excellent hosts. Iceland delivers an abundance of wildlife and weather conditions. Humpback whales, dolphins, seabirds etc.

Peter and I had high hopes for a comprehensive sailing trip. Lin and Richard delivered this and more. The food is varied and plentiful. We were very comfortable and had a fantastic experience.

If anyone is unsure about adventure sailing, this lovely boat, Skipper and 1st Mate ensure your common interest is enjoyed at a pace that always makes you feel safe and secure. Our fellow crew were great company with many tales to share. Thank you. I hope this is not our last Velvet Lady adventure

Thank you for a wonderful time, your hospitality and unfailing good humour. I have been dreaming of coming to Iceland for years and you have helped that dream come true. Good luck in your future endeavours, with your mix of comfort, experience and welcome you cannot go wrong

These ten days exceeded all my expectations and I thank you from the bottom of my heart

Very professional, hospitable and informative. Great food and a great holiday

All that fabulous sailing interspersed with great hospitality, great food, and great company. All in all I have had the best weeks sailing ever – I can hardly bear it that I am going home tomorrow. Thank you

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This has been one of my most enjoyable sailing holidays/adventures ever. The sailing was superb and ‘Velvet Lady’ is an excellent boat and extremely safe. The ports we visited were a fantastic experience in themselves and the scenery was out of this world. But the vote of thanks truly belongs to both Lin and Richard who were excellent hosts and wonderful teachers at the same time. Velvet Lady Adventures are well recommended

I was looking for adventure and a challenge – I certainly got both as well as a lot of fun and great company. Velvet Lady, Lin and Richard, many thanks for a trip I’ll never forget – you all three of you gave me confidence to try things I didn’t think I could ever do. I hope to come again sometime. Hospitality and food always excellent too.

We lived like kings, sailed around Lanzarote, swam on Christmas day. Lin and Richard were tremendous.

Thank you for having us on your boat sharing this great experience with you. Keep on with the enthusiasm, hospitality and gourmet cuisine – looking forward to coming on board again.

An absolutely splendid way to make a first passage. Great sailing in a wonderfully secure boat and well looked after by Lin and Richard

We had a great week sailing. Thank you so much for your permanent attention which made this trip a perfect one.

A well found boat with a knowledgeable and hard working crew. Lots of good food and the weather was good too

Lots of varied sailing, good food and interesting company.

A huge big thank you for a fantastic holiday away from the stresses and pressures of London life. If felt like being on top of the world, like a secret highland lake away from reality and surrounded by awesome mountains. All enjoyed while on board a boat which has been lovingly planned and beautifully looked after. You deserve Velvet Lady and she deserves you – such a serious boat needs people who will care for her and who know how to get the best from her.