In the morning, we rose, had breakfast and then motored back past Dalrymple and into Wreck Bay. As soon as we were cleared by the authorities, not an easy task as the authorities were somewhat suspicious and officious. A friend, Tom Blackwell, came over from another boat, the Islander, bringing with him oranges, bananas and lemons which were very acceptable as our fresh fruit purchased in Balboa had run out ten days before.

Tom had left Panama the day before us and had taken 19 days to reach Wreck Bay, but motored a lot of the way. Roscops (who had left Wreck Bay this very morning, for Academy Bay) had left Balboa four days before us and had had good weather for the whole of the trip and had taken only 11 days.

On Sunday, 19th April, after having made all the necessary preparations, we left Balboa and motored to the Tobago Islands, where we were becalmed for four hours. Then at 4 pm the wind and sea built up and we could see a storm hanging over Balboa. 

If I ever go long distance sailing again, I would want a boat at least 40 ft long, as with this one can earn a living. Most of the boats we meet are bigger than ours and I now have a very clear idea of the type of boat best suited to this kind of life. How you would have reacted off Maracaibo, I don’t know, but the rest of it I think you should enjoy, once you got over your initial fears. I think that Penny will want to go back to sea again. With her own charter boat, she says.

At the club we found one British yacht, Islander, 56 ft long, sailed, single handed, by a retired naval chap, Tom Blackwell, with whom we have become very friendly. The next day, a Belgium boat, Roscops, arrived. We had last met in Tenerife. Both these boats are bound for Tahiti via Galapagos and Marquesas, as we are.

Dear Phyl,
We are now anchored off the Balboa Yacht Club and expect to leave here in two days time for the Galapagos Islands, which are about 1000 miles southwest from here. I wrote from Martinique to say that we hoped to make a quick passage to Colon. This was not to be. We had our roughest passage yet, on this trip.

In the morning, just as we finished breakfast a dinghy arrived and we were warmly greeted by a chap we had met in Barbados, Davey Keefe, he had been crew on a large boat called Artemis, of which his brother was skipper. He was now skippering his brother’s own boat “Sirius”, a gaff ketch which his brother had sailed out three years previously, and Davey was now fitting out intending to day charter. We mentioned that we were very hard up, and also that we wanted our boat slipped. He invited us to come and anchor near him and said that if Penny would cook us all a good meal he would provide the food. It seems he had been living on baked beans and the like for the last three weeks. We all straightaway went into town and bought the makings of a good meal and then while he motored back we prepared to follow.

Pettit St Vincent doesn’t have any water supply but they have built a desalination plant and sell water to us by the gallon. The plant has round pans with solid floors and stone walls around the perimeter. These walls are built of double brick with a space inbetween and a framework over the top with a plastic covering. They pump seawater into the pans, the water vaporizes up to the plastic in the heat, and then trickles down the sides into the cavity between the bricks and is then collected.

Grenada to British Yacht Stella Mira
Martinique C/O H.B.M Consul
Society Islands
Pacific Ocean.

Dear Phyl,
The above address is the only one at which we are likely to be sure of getting mail from you.

We have had no mail since you wrote to Barbados. It seems unlikely that we shall have time to go up to Nicholson’s at Antigua, especially as there may not be anything for us, even if we did. Penny will write them and have anything sent to us at Balboa, which place we hope to be in about 14 days (God willing)

‘Stella Mira’
500 miles out in the Atlantic
Nov 6th

Dear Mum,

You are at long last getting a letter from me, but then you know how I hate writing letters. I’m able to do so at the moment because there’s nothing else to do. We’ve run out of books and the boat isn’t moving very fast. We’ve been at sea for 11 days now and we haven’t had good weather, we keep getting 2’s & 3’s instead of the 4 & 5’s we want. However we’ve managed to get the self steering gear to work (touch wood) so we don’t have to helm the boat at all. The only trouble is that it comes undone every few days and dad has to climb on the back and reset it.

On Saturday the 16th, we went to bed with a force 5 wind behind us. We lay in bed, and listened to the regular swish of water every time we surged forward on the top of a sea. We were indeed being rocked in the cradle of the deep. Later, in my half sleep, I became gradually conscious that the periodic swishing, had turned to a constant roar. I became fully awake, with a start, and dived for the hatch. The bow wave was foaming out phosphorescently on each side and our wake literally shone behind us into the distant night.