Baringo’s ARC November-December 2012

We arrived back in Las Palmas on 11th November just two weeks before the start of the ARC. The marina was decorated with many more ARC flags now and the activity was getting more intense by the day .The ARC office opened the following day and the  entry process was completed very efficiently .

We started the provisioning in earnest and  the supermarket delivered  at least 3 trolleys of food and drink to the boat later that day .It was quite a task stowing everything and essential to make a stowage list in order to find food  in the mid atlantic ! The partying started now with happy hour everyday ,crew dinner ,owners dinner, the masked ball and more .All great fun !There were several informative seminars on weather , handling emergencies and how to care for your rigging so  we were still well and truly on the  learning curve .Jimmy Cornell (the founder of the ARC ) was in Las Palmas and gave an excellent talk on voyage planning and he signed all his  books which we have and  on which we rely very heavily for advice .We were scrutineered in the usual way and we joined a tree planting outing to add some trees to the ARC forest .It was rather harder work than we imagined but certainly in a good cause .

On Sunday 18th we had a day away from the boat and explored the Tamanbada national park on the west of the island which is the least populated ,we had a wonderful walk in the hills and met nobody, a pleasant contrast to the rather frenetic activity in the marina

We are now in the last week before the start and we can feel the panic level rising everywhere ,John almost lived in Rolnautic  the marina chandlers ,I was always finding more provisions  to buy and the internet access was a struggle with so many people all  using it .David and Giles arrived on 19th in time for the crew dinner and the parasailor lecture by the legendary Thomas who had sold almost all the parasailors for the ARC .Andrew arrived the next day in time for the masked ball .We all used the huge swimming pool every evening in the Club Nautico the Las palmas equivalent of RHKYC ( not quite as nice of course ) and as it was heated so we could swim in the evening and relax afterwards with a drink on the balcony .Pre race abstinence was not a feature of our careful preparation .The skippers briefing was on 22nd November and it was then that the delayed start was announced but not until after the weather forecast during which everyone became progressively more anxious so the delay was greeted with thunderous applause and great relief !   The racing division start was not delayed so we watched this in bright sunshine on Sunday 27th but despite the forecast they had very little wind to cross the start line but they did get the forecast strong headwinds later though .

our pontoon in Las Palmas

our pontoon in Las Palmas

ARC office Las Palmas

ARC office Las Palmas

Rolnautic chandlery where John spend many hours standing in line.

Rolnautic chandlery where John spend many hours standing in line.

The crew

The crew

Andrew and Giles hired bikes to fill in the extra days and we of course found more tasks on board ! Is one ever ready to go to sea I wonder?? Tuesday 27th dawned like any other day but there was great excitement in the marina with much tooting of horns and cheering and we finally left the pontoon and headed out of the port with about 200 other boats so quite a sight .The start was at 11.00 am straight over the line and into a squall with wet cold gray skies and a force 7 wind thankfully from behind .This did not stop varying up to Force 9 and down to 6 until 13th December ! The waves were mountainous real atlantic rollers and it almost seemed impossible that Baringo could rise up so high but she did every time and we all kept surprisingly dry .Squalls came and went, the moon was full and the stars were brilliant and became much more interesting with Andrews I pad starwalk app. Baringo rolled constantly and relentlessly occasionally a rogue wave would swing her right round with a frightening lurch and any careless unlucky crew would be flung mercilessly across the saloon or cockpit .The most miraculous crew was Poppy the autohelm she worked tirelessly in the extremely heavy conditions with very few complaints only guzzling lots of amps to keep her going but  now we had the new Cummins Onan generator working well this was a small price to pay for such loyal service .

Another rain storm

Another rain storm

Big rain storms on the radar -all around us!

Big rain storms on the radar -all around us!

wonderful double rainbow after a storm

wonderful double rainbow after a storm

After  he first 24 hours the  large foresail clew was torn so we had to furl and use the small foresail which initially was all we needed indeed at times we did not even need that but after a few days we thought we needed more speed so the skipper had the brainwave to use the trysail as the main would have been far too dangerous  in such strong winds downwind .We had never used the trysail  before and once hoisted which was not easy but did not defeat the indefatigable Giles. It flew wonderfully well and looked pretty with the orange dots!

flying the trysail

flying the trysail

On 6th December David caught a large mahi mahi which was delicious and fed us all for 2 meals.

the big catch

David with his big catch

Baringo cocktails continued unabated like the winds until one evening the cocktail cabinet broke ….all hand were immediately on deck and the crew showed great willingness and alacrity in mending this vital piece of kit in about 3 minutes ! Their good work lasted for the rest of the voyage.

Giles always cheerful

Giles always cheerful

Andy- looking cool and calm as always!

Andy- looking cool and calm as always!

Surman brothers relaxing

Surman brothers relaxing

By Friday 14th December the wind disappeared and we had to motor for 25 hours but on friday 15th a very pleasant force 4 arrived and we had some calm and easy sailing .The parasailor which we had bought to get us across was finally hoisted on sunday 16th December after we had seen Martinique and St Lucia !

Happy crew approaching St Lucia

Happy crew approaching St Lucia with parasailor flying in flat water at last!

first view of St Lucia under the parasailor after 19 days at sea.

first view of St Lucia under the parasailor after 19 days at sea.

We sailed around Pigeon island the northern end of St Lucia and Rodney Bay  and then dropped it as we had to sail up wind to cross the finishing line …rather a change after 19 days of downwind sailing ! We crossed the line at 14.20 after 19 days at sea with great jubilation and relief  in beautiful sunshine .We immediately anchored ,swam and quaffed copious glasses of cold champagne and ate Christmas cake kindly supplied by Giles and David’s sister ….it tasted particularly delicious  !

End of the ARC- approaching Rodney Bay St Lucia

End of the ARC- approaching Rodney Bay St Lucia

delighted crew having crossed finishing line after 19 days at sea.

delighted crew having crossed finishing line after 19 days at sea.

We were welcomed into the marina with a steel drum  serenade and rum punch ,fruit and some fellow ARC boats who had arrived before us. We all had land sickness, maybe too much champagne and punch but no-one cared. It was an amazing moment .

The next few days were taken up recovering and returning the boat to our home . We heard lots of tales from other boats and decided we had been very lucky and Baringo had sailed up to the Atlantic challenge excellently. The crew were very happy to find a comfortable bed on land with the ARC staff and  they  hired a car to explore the island .We all needed some exercise for our legs so climbed the Gros Piton and it certainly provided what we wanted and more !

On top of gros piton

On top of gros piton

The Arc finished with the prize giving on Friday 21st lots of interesting prizes including one for the 42 children who had crossed and one skipper who had first done the Arc as a child ! The crew departed and we turned our attention to Christmas celebrations in St Lucia !

Here are the Blogs done en route posted onto ARC web page:

Greetings from Baringo and her crew. Fifth day at sea and our first belated blog. As by now well reported the start was not as in the brochure! It was cloudy, blustery, squally and as we headed out to sea a big swell developed. Not much has changed! We have been running downwind with wind speeds of about 25-30 knots and a large swell. The boat is rolling all over the place and difficult to keep anything in one place. We have broken our main genoa having inadvertently gybed it several times in strong winds so that the clew ring has nearly parted from the body of the sail. So we are using the smaller genny which is working surprisingly well giving us speeds of about 6 knots or more. But it would be nice to go faster in this wind but steering would be more difficult so perhaps we would be using the smaller sail in any case. We plan to get it down and repair it when the sea settles down a bit. No chance to use our new parasailor yet (only in winds less than 18 knots). But we have had some lovely nights with a wonderful full moon and sky full of stars. Crew all remain very cheerful considering the conditions and full of humour and we have had some excellent meals miraculously cooked in a rolling galley. The size of the atlantic is beginning to dawn on us but so far so good and we are making respectable progress compared to other boats of our size. No fish caught yet. More soon….

Date: 03/12/12

Here on board the skipper and crew are having a wonderful wild downhill ride on the boat, nothing beats surfing 12 tons of plastic down the front of 5m waves at night with a following wind gusting to 40 knots true.

Whilst we note we are slowly dropping down the fleet at present in terms of position, we are congratulating ourseleves on our current rig – storm sail and small inner stay head sail, because alas we wore out the clue on our main head sail. The rig looks great, nothing like a bright orange storm sail to enliven life aboard. It is a triumph of our on board committee, because of course we have the ideal trans atlantic compliment: 3 medical doctors and 2 lawyers ! It’s all fun aboard this vessel.

This morning we saw a double rainbow amidst squalls as dawn broke – its desolately beautiful out here and as we sit and think about what we will be doing this time next week, and indeed what we shall be doing in a fortnight and realise with much delirious hilarity that we’ll be here aboard our faithful yacht we actually look forward to it and continue to enjoy the sailing…oh and the food and the jokes; they are always better second time around.

Lunch is being prepared as I write. Professor Andrew Peacock is on galley duty today. He is an expert in handling vasaline covered eggs (they are covered in vaseline to extend thier life), in a heavy sea way …. wow that one almost hit me !

The water maker is being run; our skipper and engineer 1st class Professor John Sanderson is putting all his skill as a cardiac physician to good use in coaxing the recalcitrant machine into life.

All well aboard – more anon.

Giles Surman

Date: 01/12/12

Date 07/12/12: here on the good ship Baringo our deck mate 1st class David Surman has struck gold with a 10kg Mahi Mahi fish which will soon grace the dining table – its no.1 mess dress for the high table this evening.

Crew morale has risen with the fishing triumph & the sunshine and a considerably calmer sea as we crack along at a comfortable pace towards 40 degrees west – our notional or psychological half way line of longitude.

In respect of our sailing we are still somewhat hampered by the early loss of our main large head sail – the clew chaffed through – but are doing our best to make up for its loss and using what other sails we have; and have been fortunate to have fair winds that have generally favoured what sails we have. Thus far the rest of the boat is proving to be very sound indeed – Baringo has thus far made it from Hong Kong, no surprise given that she is beautifully cared for by its owners John Sanderson and Julia Billingham and we are very fortunate to be in such a well found boat as this.

The stories are beginning to be recycled – but we can bear that. All of us think of our families in various parts of the world: John & Julia with their children in London and Beijing; Andrew Peacock with his family gathering at his snow covered home this weekend in the suburbs of Glasgow; David & Giles Surman with thier parents in Fiji and Giles with his lovely wife and 3 sons in Hong Kong – its a global boat this and all of us aboard send greetings to all our families and loved ones.

That’s “over” from Baringo this sunny and windy Thursday 6th Dec at 17.43 UST.

Date: Sun, 09 Dec 2012 01:16:37 +0800

Dear All,

after a Thursday night and Friday (6th and 7th Dec) characterized by three things: rain; rain; and more rain – and a fourth namely such varibale winds that we were turning in all directions – we finally as of about 1800 hrs Friday (6th Dec) picked up a strong and steady north east breeze and have been making steady and comfortable progress since then.

Crew morale is as always excellent and was improved by a celebratory slice of Christmas cake (generously donated to crew supplies by Brownen Richardson – my sister) as we passed the half way point in the rain on Friday.

The crew sweepstakes on the most accurate forecast for the time at which we would cross 40 degrees W , was won by Professor Andrew Peacock – despiet the very best efforts of one helmsman to steer 270 / due west and ‘race for the line’ as the clock counted down through the early hours of Sat (8 Dec) (my apologies for the course deviation skipper).

Besides the daily routine of sail changes, course correction, crew rotation, galley duties etc., the crew of Baringo have wrestled with a number of thorny issues and such has been the range of discussion (rarely argument), debate never dampened by the wind and rain, we thought we’d give you a little flavour of the areas of discussion covered – rarely resolved, but always thought provoking – these have included:

1. Robotics & the development of new ‘skin’ for robots – is this a major leap forwards and simply another incremental step?

2. Robotics in farming?

3. Solar panels & alleged Chinese dumping thereof.

4. Funding the BBC – public or private?

5. Pharmaceutical companies and the funding of drug research / ‘patent cliffs’ / use of animals in drug testing / new methods of funding R & D

6. The ‘war’ on illicit drugs. How will future generations perceive the approach?

7. The rights / obligations of protesters – Animal rights / religious / political ? Do different ‘rules’ apply in ‘open’ societies as opposed to closed ones?

8. Automated vehicles – planes trains & automobiles – which will come first? What impact on road architecture ? On insurance? On car design?

9. Cars – the good the bad and the ugly we have owned and driven. Someone on board had a Fiat – no one ever owned a Lancia (or admitted same).

10. Australia – an economy ‘hollowed out’ by a minerals boom. Will it last forever, how will it end?

11. Hong Kong – the pollution problem.

12. Caribbean politics – the blessings and curses of geogpraphy, neighbours, history & climate.

13. Electricity – nuclear, hydro, conventioanl fossil, sun/wind …and the apparent lack of progress in harnessing the power of the ocean in the form of tides.

14. Abrahamic religions? What of the future? A force for good?

15. Scotland – attitudes & approaches to devolution. What forces propel nationalists within Canada, Spain, UK at a time of increasing globalisation?

16. Post WW2 ‘watershed years’: 1948 (Berlin/Cold War), 1949 (PRC), 1952(Hydrogen), 1960(Cuba), 1979 (Deng/PRC; Thatcher), 1989 (Soviet), 2008 ($ crisis enhancing trends already evident – China, women in employment, US debt). We started with a top 5 restriction but couldn’t do it.

17. Future conflicts- the artic? , Water? Territory? Oil? Football?

18. The Kurds. Beneficiaries of the ‘Arab Spring’?

19. Syria – the end game . Aspirations of the ‘new’ Ottomans?

I could go on – but just wanted to give you a flavour of life aboard ….of course we have talked of boat design, sails, material science and boats etc etc .

That’s it from Baringo at 18 52′ N 41 33’W on a wonderful windy sunny Saturday afternoon.

Giles Surman

Night Watch Leader


Sat 8 Dec 2012

Date 12/12/12: A gap in adding to the blog I am afraid as typing is difficult in these roly-poly conditions. We gybed yesterday onto a port tack to go more south and hoping for a more easterly wind which has partly emerged. The wind today remains about 25-30 knots with big following seas. Last night luckily no major squalls and a marvelous starry night with shooting stars and a thin slither of the old moon rising just before dawn. We been hampered by not having a proper genoa to pole out to enable us to go more downwind and it is impossible to repair in these conditions- the thought of getting it down in these winds is enough! We are now sailing with the main with 2 reefs and a strong preventer attached managing to sail about 160 degrees. But not ideal and last night we were a bit overcautious putting 3 reefs in the main further reducind our speeds. Our little genoa is of little use at these wind angles. The promise of lighter winds and the chance to use our parasailor are looking more remote now. So we are pressing on with reasonable speeds of about 6.5 knots. Many of the boats are now arrriving but we are 560 miles from St Lucia and if we continue we should arrive at the weekend. We are amazed to have sailed over 2000 miles with 30 kntos of wind behind us nearly all the way! Crew remain well and cheerful and food miraculously appears from a rolling and tipping galley, a great tribute to the crew! We are hoping for another fish catch today. JS

This morning – Friday – the wind died.

Before we turned on the motor, we had a long debate about it. But thoughts of land and a realization from receiving weather information that we were unlikely to get any decent wind for possibly days meant the old ‘iron sail’ was cranked up.

However, before we commenced motoring, we had a swim in the Atlantic.

As I swam I looked all around me and thought, north of here there is nothing but sea until about Newfoundland or Greenland ; south of me there is nothing until the Falkland Islands or the Arctic, west of me there is the Caribbean – the Leeward Island lay due west of us here (St. Lucia is in the Windward Islands which are a bit further south) , to the east of me as I swam there are several thousand miles to the coast of Africa. Below me was 1000 metres or more – the sea was a very deep blue and as I swam the big rolling ocean waves which are still about 3-5 metres came up and lifted me up and down and up and down and as I went up … I could see forever. And as I was lifted up to the crest I looked east and looked across Africa and across India, and across Thailand and then the South China Sea and I could see Lantau Island and my home in Hong Kong. I could see my wife & children playing on the beach there. And as I went up on a big wave and reached the top of it I looked west and I could see the islands of the Caribbean scattered like jewels sprinkled across a sliver sea and I kept looking and I looked across Central America, across Panama, and then out across the broad deep blue wide Pacific, I saw Kiribati and my old boyhood home on Tarawa Atoll, I looked south to Fiji and saw my mother and father there at home, I then looked north west across the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines and then across the South China Sea and north to Hong Kong and once again home on Lantau Island at the mouth of Pearl River – I could see it all – and I thought as I bobbed up and down and up and down on the big rolling ocean how I could see home in each direction and how I was so very far away right on the other side of the world it was, but I could see home. It was beautiful.

All crew here aboard Baringo are on top form, morale is at an all time high – a swim – naked on the part of some of ‘lower deck’ crew – is the panacea for all ills; not that there have been any to salve.

The skipper John Sanderson and his wife Executive Chief Skipper’s assistant Dr. Julia Billingham have been truly excellent leaders of this expedition.

Julia has been a wonderful overseer of amongst many other things, the galley. All of us aboard have all had our ‘galley day’ as per the rota, but Julia has stepped in where required to assist those of us who are a little challenged by matters culinary or who on some of the more trying mid Atlantic days felt almost as green as the vegetables we were preparing.

The food aboard has been excellent and our fresh fruit has only run out as of this morning – no danger of scurvy aboard this vessel. It was steak and veggies for supper last night, a couple of days ago we enjoyed a beautifully marinated fresh caught Mahi Mahi – caught & filleted by my brother David, and then deliciously prepared with a delicate marinate of spring onions and a dash of Oyster sauce (only Lee Kum Kee’s will do)- if ever Master Chief goes nautical we shall be entering Julia as our representative.

Indeed we are going to award Julia the highest Order available: the Order of Baringo 1st class (culinary) with chocolate bar and crossed fresh vegetable decoration emblazoned with the legends: ‘Conqueror of the Atlantic Galley’ and ‘Provider of viticals in all weathers’.

Our estimated arrival time in St Lucia depends now on how much we decide to motor / how much – if any – wind starts to fill in. Earliest ETA will be Sat evening our time (we will soon be changing our clocks and watches for the 4th time as we have crossed the Atlantic) our latest ETA is Sunday night.

All good aboard. Boat still rolling on the waves but so much calmer now & I write without falling on the stool and being thrown across the boat; that is a very welcome change.

Our love and best wishes go out from all of us aboard to all our families and friends sprinkled across the world.

Its a happy boat and crew that now gently approach St. Lucia.

Giles Surman

Night Watch Leader

S/Y Baringo

Western Atlantic 15 26′ N 56 11’W

Friday 14 December 2012

Giles Surman

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2 Responses to Baringo’s ARC November-December 2012

  1. Anthony Miller says:

    This is Tony Miller of the SY Midnight Walk. Cecilia and I would love to reconnect with Julia and John since we were sailing buddies in Hong Kong. We are now based in Tokyo along with Midnight Walk (in Zushi on Sagami Bay). Please email me at


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