This page is all about our Sunseeker. An overview of our time with her.
Sunseeker came into our possession in late June of 1993. During July and August of that year we sailed her from her deepwater mooring on the River Orwell, North-about to Glasson Dock, near Lancaster on Morecambe Bay. With no previous experience, we called in many of the harbours on the north-east coast, Moray Firth and West Coast of Scotland. Sunseeker was very forgiving throughout our very steep learning curve and, no doubt, we had a little help from ‘someone up there’ to help us through numerous hair-raising moments.
For the next eighteen months Sunseeker had a berth in Glasson Marina, where she was ‘fitted out’ for an extended cruise. Major work included the building of her doghouse and making a fully enclosed steering position. This includes the consolidation of all instrumentation into a large, encloseable console. The galley was demolished and rebuilt trying to use all available space. We believe that on a live-aboard the galley is central to the comfort and well being of her crew. It should be functional and spacious enough to carry utensils and stores for long passages. Sunseeker’s old gas system was pulled out and replaced with a simpler, safer system. The fresh-water system was upgraded to approximately eighty gallons in steel and flexible plastic tanks.
On deck, new mooring cleats were fitted, standing rigging and bottle-screws upgraded. Galvanised anchor chain was upgraded. Lazy-jacks, jackstays, a pin-rail and boom-gallows were added and a new suit of tan sails (Main, staysail and roller-furling genoa) purchased. Below the waterline all paint was burned off to bare wood and re-primed and a new rudder was built and fitted.
In August of 1994, in the midst of all this work we took her for a holiday to the Isle of Man to test her new sails, doghouse and GPS. It was a great success and we returned with renewed vigour and determination to complete the refit.
By this time we had given up our little flat, in Shipley, West Yorkshire, to live, full-time on board. This we did through a very cold northern winter, huddled beneath an all-enclosing tarpaulin, quite snug but looking forward to the time when we could point Sunseeker’s bows south to the sunshine.
Time to Sail away
In May of 1995 Sunseeker left Glasson Dock for her extended cruise. Following a two-month shakedown in the Firth of Clyde, during which we replaced her gearbox with her present hydraulic box, we left the UK and coasted down the East Coast of Ireland.
Our first ocean passage, of fourteen days, took us from Waterford to Bayonna in Galicia, North Spain. From the West Coast of Portugal we headed offshore again bound for Madeira. Adverse weather and fever, which laid low 50% of her crew of two, turned us back to the Portuguese coast; only to encounter an Easterly gale which blew us around Cape St. Vincent in huge seas under bare poles. Fourteen days after leaving Sines, our port of departure, Sunseeker crept back into the enclosed anchorage there with an exhausted and demoralised crew.
Fortunately for us, fellow cruisers persuaded us to sail Sunseeker to the Algarve and spend the winter in the sunshine. This we did and spent, not only the winter, but also the summer and following winter too. We had found a magical haven twenty miles upriver, away from the sea. The town and people of Alcoutim are very special to us.
Spring of 1997 saw Sunseeker truly heading south for the sun. Leaving Portuguese Algarve, ten days took her to Gran Canaria and a week’s rest in the marina of Las Palmas. A forty-day passage, of light winds and prolonged calms took her across the Atlantic to our landfall on Barbados to begin our Caribbean cruise.
Following short stays in Barbados and St. Lucia we crossed the Caribbean Sea to Curacao. A five-day passage of just less than six hundred miles, sailing through rough seas and strong easterly trade winds on a magical, downwind sleigh-ride, through brilliant days of glorious sunshine and intensely bright, starlit nights. The Caribbean hurricane season was spent, safely anchored in Spanish Water, Curacao, south of the accepted hurricane zone.
In November we resumed our voyaging and motor-sailed almost the entire distance to Trinidad, visiting uninhabited coral islands and many deserted anchorages along the Venezuelan mainland coast. Christmas was enjoyed by Sunseeker’s crew on the large, Venezuelan Isla Margarita before pushing on to the Gulf of Paria and the multi-cultured island of Trinidad; there to enjoy some of the excitement of Carnival and to haul out Sunseeker for a well-earned bottom scrub and re-antifoul.
Guided by Polaris
In April of 1998 Sunseeker’s bows were, once again pointing towards Polaris for an exciting windward cruise northward, through the chain of islands that are the Lesser Antilles. Grenada, Cariacou, Union Island, Canuan, Bequia and St. Vincent rose from the sea on Sunseeker’s bow to fall away in her wake. A return to St. Lucia, and on, to Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe, before a brief spell in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. There to re-stock and take on water and fuel for the long haul to the mid-Atlantic islands of the Azores.
It was on this passage we encountered our heaviest weather; night after night of awe-inspiring violent thunder and lightning storms as we sailed through the Horse latitudes; long periods of calms followed by mountainous waves, generated by a series of depressions tracking across the North Atlantic. Sunseeker came through all without damage, comfortably riding out gales and near gales, leaving her crew with a profound trust in her seakindly ways which are due to traditional lines and sturdy build.
From the Azores, following three weeks of pleasant and relaxing sightseeing it was back to sea for the final leg to Plymouth. Land’s End was sighted after eighteen days of varied weather; strong winds building high seas, which we again rode out hove-to; and one never to be forgotten night of absolute, flat calm, accompanied by dolphins, turtles and numerous pairs of sperm whales.
Sunseeker entered Plymouth Sound; there to drop anchor in the tiny bay known as Barn Pool at the mouth of the River Tamar; awaiting a good spring tide to carry her up the River Lynner to be hauled out onto the yard at Boating World. There she now rests awhile, her job well done, until the next time?
During the five years of our life with Sunseeker, she has carried us, safely across fourteen thousand miles of ocean, sea and river. She has taken us to sixteen, extremely varied countries. She has enabled us to savour the culture, cuisine and costumes of a multitude of peoples.