Lucy and the New Dawn Traders

Fare Traded by Sail

Month: May, 2012

Corwith Cramer

The Corwith Cramer alongside the dock in Bermuda. The Corwith Cramer is a 280 ton steel Brigantine with a sail area 7,800 square foot.

While in Bermuda the Irene was moored next a beautiful tall ship called The Corwith Cramer. The Corwith Cramer  is owned by the Sea Education Trust which delivers 12 week university level marine education courses. As it was Irene’s birthday while in Port we invited the crew of the Corwith Cramer over for some birthday drinks and a tour of the ship.

I got chatting to scientist and deckhand Greg about life at sea. Greg is studying for a Phd in Marine Microbial Ecology on board as well as supervising students on board with their research projects and teaching sailing. One of my first questions was about the labs on board. I was stunned to learn that they had a microbial lab, microscopes and equipment for DNA analysis (including a PCR machine which is used to amplify DNA for profiling) along with a host of equipment for sampling marine environments like neuston nets and realtime surface water monitoring.

I was also keen to see the galley which was a large square room mid ships decked out with stainless steel worktops, an 8 ring gas hob and a large provisions store underneath. They had a large fridge and freezer which resembled morgue cabinet freezers.

Each person aboard has their own private bunk. The trainee bunks line the sides of the saloon. And the officers and scientists share 2 berth cabins.

A great fact about the Corwith Cramer is that she has a female Captain and a gender balanced permanent crew. Apparently the Trust realised very early on that to provide a safe and conducive learning environment presence of female officers was key.

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Happy birthday Irene!

The Good Ship Irene is 105 years old today! Happy birthday dear Irene. Good bless Irene and all who sail in her.

We are all celebrating in a delightful restaurant in Bermuda. Tomorrow Irene and her New Dawn Traders set sail for our 3+ week passage across the Atlantic. Our longest passage yet!

The Baths, The Pelly and Irene

An unexpected adventure in the British Virgin Islands. 

We set sail from St Martin around midday on Friday for an overnight sail to the British Virgin Islands to collect our new officer Sam.

As we sailed out of harbour the weather turned as a squall powered through.

We were soaked to the skin within seconds as we hauled up our sails.

As quick as the weather arrived it disappeared again. We were then treated to the spectacle of a whale splashing about 200 metres to our port side a rear fin followed a flash of pectoral fins.

As we were 1 person short for the 3 person watch system we split into 2 teams of 4 for watches of 6 hour duration. I was in the second team so on watch at 6pm. The SatPhone (InMarSat IsatPhone Pro) on board was still not operating so I set to work testing various settings and reinstalling the drivers, ports and software. Still no joy. Thoroughly frustrating! The number of hours that various crew have spent on this device to no avail doesn’t bear calculating. Our verdict? It’s a piece of S**T. If you want to full details of why then email me.

I was on watch with Mike, Laurance and Jamie. There was a good wind and we were making 7-8kts under a starlight sky. We arrived in the British Virgin Islands and anchored just of the famous Baths of Virgin Gorda.

The Baths are formed from massive boulders and form the basis of incredible coral formations and networks of caves and crevices.

We anchored off Virgin Gorda after collecting Sam from Tortola. While lowering the main sail I accidently let slip the main gaff halyard burning my hands in the process. The main sail fell down the final 3rd of the mast with a thwack to the deck narrowly missing Jamie’s head. The halyard had been replaced in St Martin with new polypropylene rope to prevent fraying and was far more slippery then I was used to. As the gaff fell the halyard whipped through the blocks at the top of the mast. I was promptly hauled to the top of the mast to rectify my mistake and re-thread the lines. At the top of the mast I had an incredible 360 vista of the islands with the sun setting over Tortola. Magical.

On the sail over we found out that the problem identified in St Martin with the tiller and rudder was much worse then we thought. The stock where the tiller attaches to the rudder was starting to shear off. The officers sent us ashore to swim and bask on the beach while they set to work establishing the extent of the damage and what steps could be taken to get us sailing again.

The following day the captain brief all the crew on the extent of the damage to the tiller. At this point Laurance was unsure whether we would be able to continue the voyage. There was a possibility that the ship would have to return to Trinidad to be lifted from the water and the rudder removed for repairs.

We were all completely crest fallen. We all went ashore and the Captain set about exploring options. I immediately set to work seeing if their were any boats sailing back to Europe. I was determined not to fly… That evening supper was quiet as we all mulled over our options.

The following day we worked on the ship in the morning getting on with the usual maintenance tasks and touching up of paint work followed by an afternoon of exploring the underwater world around the ship. The water was crystal clear and swimming off the ship we spotted barracudas, rays and turtles. Explorations further afield amongst the rocks and reefs revealed an array of beautiful fish and corals. Enormous gold brain corals and purple pink sea fans. Schools of blue fish that radiating ultra violet and rainbow coloured parrot fish nibbling on the coral encrusted rocks. While at anchor a Barracuda made its home under the ship. We also spotted a pair of playful dolphins off the ship which Mantoine was fortunate to swim with!

Later in the day the Captain came back with some tentative good news. He had found a shipwright able to cast a bracket to reinforce the rudder. The officers set to work preparing the joint with liberal amounts of epoxy to strengthen the wood.

And the rest of us crossed our fingers and toes for a successful repair while continuing to explore the island. In the evening we made a BBQ on the beach on the beach to cautiously celebrate and dosed on the shore watching fireflies dance in the palms.

Emma was surprise to see a cock on the beach after her afternoon snooze

The British Virgin Islands are described as Natures Secret and they are extraordinarily beautiful. Originally we were only going to pass through and spend 24 hours. In the end we had 5 amazing if a little anxious days.

A repair was made and we set sail once more on Wednesday. The Captain was clear that we wouldn’t know the extent to which the repair had been successful until we were sailing again. There would be a chance that the steering could fail completely on the next leg. However we were all decided that it was worth staying with the ship and testing the waters.

I’m relieved to post this from Bermuda after a successful passage. No breakages. No drama. Just 6 days of plain sailing.


Many thanks to Olivia and Roland Henry, Sarah Mace and Kama Glover for sponsoring my vitals over the past week. You guys rock and I can’t wait to see you back in Blighty soon. xx

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Ship shape for the Atlantic

Emma and Matt threading the main sail to the gaff

It’s been a busy week on board Irene. Firstly we arrived in Port to find that there was a nautical festival taking place in Marigot. The marina was open to the public and the beaches covered in sound systems and BBQs. Many people stopped by to take a closer look at the ‘Pirate Ship’ in the harbour. We also had visits from people who remembered Irene from the fateful day of 22nd May 2003 when she sank in Marigot bay after a fire raged across her decks. One gentlemen who had actually help lift her from the sea bed popped by to express his delight at seeing her here once more.

After a weekend of fun and relaxation it was back to the work list. We have all worked long days this week on the the ship getting her sea worthy for the crossing.

Matt taking apart and servicing the blocks

The main jobs have been servicing each and every one of the wooden blocks by taking them apart, remove grease and grit and adding new ‘tingle’ (piece of metal) to keep the pin from falling out.

A beautiful dollar piece adorned with the image of a tall ship makes for a beautiful tingle. Photo courtesy of Matt.

Once the blocks had been serviced and put back into the correct location on the ship Mike went round mouse the shackles to stop the pin from working loose.

‘Mousing’ the shackles to keep the pins from working loose

We don’t want any more blocks falling from the rigging on the return voyage. We found one shackle where a neat ellipse shape had been worn away through the pin caused by rubbing from the shackle on the pin. Seeing the pin was a reminder of just how much force is on the rigging as we sail!

The Pike brothers hard at work fixing the main boom fitting

A number of the halyards had frayed on the crossing over so we’ve been replacing lines with new ropes and in some cases replacing with stronger rope materials.

Jamie gets prepared for a day of sanding

Jamie and I set to work sanding the top gallants and the bulwarks ready for a fresh lick of paint.

Sanding down the top gallant rails ready for a new coat of varnish

Antoine and Ville made repairs to the steering gear to improve her handling at sea.

Assessing the work required on the steering gear

Emma, Jamie and I set about re-provisioning the ship for the next 6 weeks of voyaging. Our cupboards and stores were practically empty upon arrival in St Martin. We had finally exhausted our supplies of dry goods such pasta, rice and cous cous bought all those months ago in Plymouth. Nearly everything on the shelves in the shops here is imported. I’ve been reflecting on the realities of the current global food system. Jamie and I were surprised to see that thai coconut milk is half the price of coconut milk from the caribbean. And dismayed to see that the only eggs available came from the US, were in polystyrene boxes (eeeuw) and were all from caged hens. There certainly isn’t the same choices available here compared to in Europe.

Once we returned with 6-8 weeks of provisions we set about stowing everything on the ship safely. All the citrus fruit and eggs needed layers of vaseline for preservation. We also refilled the water bottles checking we had the required amount for the return voyage.

We haven’t really had time to explore St Martin. From the brief visits to the beaches my first thoughts are how trapped in an ’80s’ time warp the island is. Lots of neon signs and a very stereotypical caribbean style! St Martin is split between a French side (considred EU zone) and the Dutch side where dollars and Netherlands Antilles Guilders are used. This makes paying for things complicated and pricing ambiguous.

Ville up the mast re-installing top lights

This week we said ‘au revoir’ to Ville our awesome Finnish shipwright and Ramon AKA Gaddafi, one of the officers. We are collecting a new officer in the British Virgin islands called Sam who will sail home to Europe with us. Ville set off this morning, flutes in hand, to explore Central and South America.

Can’t wait to hear tales of your adventures Ville!

I have been surprised to learn that the UK has just experienced the wettest April since 1910 and that the weather has been generally quite appalling.  We ‘ve been pondering collectively as a crew what the weather in the Atlantic holds for us over the next few weeks. Hopefully the spate of stormy tumultuous seas has passed…

Tomorrow we cast off for the British Virgin Islands which is a half day sail. I’m looking forward to heading out to sea again. I must confess that I feel that 4 months on board is beginning to take its toll. The last week I’ve felt incredibly homesick and exhausted. The mosquitos and the heat of the night leave me weary most days. I’m absolutely covered in bites – the bloody things are eating me alive!

However I still have 6 weeks of sea between me and UK soil! With the possibility that we are about to face our greatest challenges yet.

Fair winds and following seas indeed!


We arrived in Martinique on Victory day, a national holiday in France celebrating the end of WWII, which also happens to be the anniversary of the last volcanic eruption in Martinique in 1902. Our port of call in Martinique was the Port de Plaisance of Marin, a small town dominated by the yacht and charter boat industry. Much of the town was shut and the thundery squalls led us to do what any sensible person would do, find a bar!

Mine is a Ti Punch please!

The following day we paid a visit to the local market stocked full of delicious fruits, pepper sauces and spices to replenish our supplies before heading to the local ‘Trois Rivières’ rum distillery.

‘Trois rivieres’ Rum Distillery

Trois Rivières produces high quality agricole rum produced directly from sugar grown on the island. The rum has been awarded the prestigious French “appellation d’origine contrôlée” quality designation.

Rum works: Like being tiny inside a watch.

The grounds of the distillery was buzzing with wildlife. The estate is intersected by 3 rivers and the boggy grounds were covered in little crabs. We also spotted a number of crazy looking caterpillars and lizards.

I’d really like to know what this psychedelic caterpillar is going to metamorphosis into….

After our whistlestop tour and tasting we headed back to the ship ready to cast off to St Martin.

A squall passing through Martinique just as we prepared to cast off

As we returned the heavens opened drenching us to the skin which made it difficult to load our cargo.

It took approximately 40 hours to sail to St Martin. On route we passed Dominica, Guadeloupe and Montserrat.

Hope to visit them next time…

Sunset over Monserrat

We passed Montserrat just as the sun was setting. The sky a roaring fire engulfing the island.

Flaking the jib sails as we cruise into port

We approached St Martin at dawn the following day. For the good ship Irene, returning to St Martin is a momentous occasion. Irene caught fire and sank in Marigot bay in 2003. We moored up in Fort Louis and discovered that we had arrived in time for a Maritime festival, and that the harbour was being prepared for a stream of visitors. Immediately orders were dispatched to clear the decks and hoist the flags.

We are in St Martin for a week as we prepare for our Atlantic crossing back to Europe. There are repairs to be made to the rigging, ropes to be replaced and provisioning. On the crossing to the caribbean the spreaders cracked and we had to remove the top mast, flying jib and part of the rigging.

Monday 8am sharp. Tools at the ready!

We also need to prepare ourselves mentally as crew for the crossing home. The return crossing is likely to be much tougher. The weather is far less predictable and often the seas are far more choppy…

Our next stop is Bermuda briefly, before crossing via the Azores. Irene has been booked for a Tall Ship festival in Bayonne, France. This means we will be sailing to France before heading home to Bristol. Another Bay of Biscay crossing… Yikes!

Better get my sea legs ready…

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