Then i sailed all the way home again.

Hello Again,
By request, here’s some photos of the return trip Bermuda to the Azores to the UK, enjoy! I think this will be my last post, so thanks for looking, it’s been fun to write. And, to quote myself a year ago:
“THANK YOU to absolutely everyone (in the whole wide world, so it feels) for encouraging me, supporting me, letting me sleep on your couches/beds/beaches/bunks/boats, feeding me, giving me boat rides, car rides, piggy backs, bike rides, kayak rides, for arguing with me, for teaching me songs, knitting, weaving, sailing, new languages, for sailing, hiking, chatting with me, for drumming, singing, dancing, playing, reciting poetry, cooking, eating and washing up with me, for sitting in rivers with me, de-niting me, snorkelling with me, digging, weeding, planting, painting with me, and sending me nice emails. I definately could not have made it here, by sail, without you.

Charlotaknots Over and Out xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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What a difference a month makes..

Just to let you know – I made it back home! We sailed into Dartmouth, UK, possibly the prettiest port in the country on the most beautiful day of the year, or maybe i’d say that about anywhere anytime after such a rough, grey, rainy month at sea! We docked at a very civilised 12 noon on Sunday 13th June, marking the end of my nearly 2 year long journey to Bermuda and back. It feels like the month long return journey was as epic as the 7 month journey out, and had more of an ‘endurance’ element to it – i have never been so wet and for so long in my life! But it was of course also a pretty awesome experience. I will write a little more or post photos (including whale sightings – to give you an insight!) in a few days, but for now – love to you all from my lush green, and nice and solid, homelands! xx Charlotte

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One year on…

Good Morning Beautiful People! (As the man on the No.4 bus says to us all). It is exactly one year on, to the day, since i arrived in Bermuda, and tomorrow i set sail again! This time i’m bound for home, and it’ll take a meagre 4 weeks! I’ve had an up and down year, the first 6 months we’re emotionally and physically draining – a blur of lettuce growing, heat and holding my tongue! The last 6 months Bermuda has sparkled, it is a pretty amazing place to be, and now am feeling teary eyed and heavy hearted to leave my lovely family and friends. But the once yearly weather window is here, it’s now or nev.. well, next year! So i found myself a ride on ‘Knightime’, with it’s all male, anglo-american ‘Knightriders’ (so they like to call themselves, ha ha), a 46 foot Beneteaux Oceanis (for the yachties), and it’s dead fancy. Have got my knitting needles out, stocked up on mung beans, papaya and Granny’s banana bread, and ready (apart from the few trillion other little jobs i always find i MUST do, JUST before i go), to head off on SUnday. I’ve decided, instead of another epicly long blog, i’ll post ‘my year in pictures’, to make up for the lack of photos in previous blogs, plus i’m too sleepy to write more… Lots and lots of love from, now i can reclaim my name – Charlotaknots!

P.S. We stop in the Azores in 2 weeks ish, i’ll try to post something then, then arrive in Dartmouth, Devon, mid-June, yeaaaaahhhhhh!!!!


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Bermuda Ahoy!

I have finally made it, 7 months and around about 5300 miles later (I think), from the UK to Bermuda by wind power! (Well, mostly, including 200 or so miles with the engine running, and not including my fossil fuelled detour to Dominica!)

Captain Ted, ‘Restless’ and I, sailed into St George’s harbour on Friday (15th May), after 8 fun and musical days and bright moonlit nights at sea. This included some rough close hauled sailing (this means it was very rolly, bumpy and the boat was on a steep slant) which made me ill and a bit grumpy, contrasted with a few very calm days when we almost came to a standstill and the water went spookily smooth and ripple-less for the middle of a great ocean. In our becalmed state, we put the engine on, but then I was happy to find that Ted knows how to appreciate life on a sail boat, whatever the weather, and after a couple of hours, decided it was too horrible, switched of the engine and pulled out his saxaphone, and we sang and played sing along tunes until the wind picked up. (We also realised from radioed in weather advice, that we would never avoid the cold front (which would give us a wet bumpy rolly ride into Bermuda) which we were racing to avoid, so there was no point racing). This skipper was very open and accepting of my preferred vegan diet (now with the exception of the occasional wild fish!) and my enjoyment of experimental cooking, and I was allowed free reign of the kitchen, hooray – I fully appreciated this with some mid-ocean baking – bread, pizza, pancakes, sweetpotato patties, and seaweed soup…

Sargasso Sea Soup

Despite my incessant staring at the sea, I again saw not one whale, however, we did see little patches of yellowy brown seaweed floating by, which got bigger and bigger until we were gliding through lines of it a meter wide and stretching from horizon to horizon. This seemed really surreal to me, out in this remote and deep deep ocean (25000 feet down – one of the deepest of them all!), where is it coming from, where is it going, how is it still alive? Ted had set out the fishing lines optimistically, but after the 20th time he’d reeled in a tangled heap of seaweed he was giving up. Then, excitingly, I discovered it was edible! According to the edible seaweed identification guide in my ‘Survival Guide to Homesteading the Ocean’, this was ‘sargassum fulvellum’ – ‘found drifting in the Sargasso Sea … and more often than not found fouling up fishing lines’ – a perfect identity match I think! So, you can dry it and sprinkle it on salads and things or cook it in soup – unfortunately I experimented with the latter, in which it lost all of its nice seaside flavour, and I had to eat boring onion soup with chewy little branches in it, for the next 3 days. It really was tasty when I nibbled it raw, and I reckon it would be yummy dried, so any readers who are also experimental cooks and sailors of the Sargasso Sea – don’t be put off by my story of boring soup!

The Sinking of the Pants

One day, through an act of total stupidity and grumpyness – probably due to strange sleep patterns, being cooped up in a very small space in a very small community of 2, and me being a bit stubborn and not taking advice, I managed to accidentally throw overboard, with their washing water, all my underwear, mid-ocean and with no hope of recovery. So now all my few, precious and well travelled pants lie 25 000 feet down at the bottom of the ocean, I imagine wreaking havoc, or maybe just confusion, with the beasties and ecosystems of the deep. Or, as Ted tentatively joked just after, there is now a pod of 4 stripey panted dolphins leaping round the Sargasso Sea, perhaps the envy, or the embarrassment, of the local dolphin community.

Nearing Bermuda

The first signs that felt to me like we were nearing Bermuda was seeing little (fantastically named) ‘Portuguese Men of War’ occasionally floating by. I remembered these, with a shiver down my spine, from childhood visits to Bermuda. They are bizarre beasties that look like a bit of plastic bag from afar, but close up you can see they are little transparent blue balloons floating on the surface with long, long bright blue tentacles trailing along behind them – I was always terrified if I saw one anywhere near me as apparently the tentacles will stick to your skin of they brush against you and cause excruciating acid burns. Incidentally, i learnt today from a marine biologist that they are not technically jellyfish, and are actually a little community of animals, all stuck together and working together, amazing. Anyway – I imagined that they were all floating past on their way from Bermuda, so that meant it couldn’t be far!

The next, and more definate sign of Bermuda came after sunset on the 5th or maybe 6th day, I could see a small orangey glow on the horizon northwards. At first I thought it might be the beautiful yellowy glowing moon rising again, but then I saw a sweeping white glow – the lighthouse! (For the romantics- I later found out that I was seeing Gibbs’ Hill lighthouse – where my sister’s husband proposed to her, ahhh.) On the eighth day, because of the direction of the wind (coming from the North East) we had to sail straight up to the sandy south shore of the island, to within a tantalising few hundred meters, but then had to almost double back on ourselves for a few miles back out to sea, in order to then sail further east around the island, where Ted let me take the helm to take us through a narrow passage between rocks (slightly nerve rackingly!) and into the cosy, sheltered and very very pretty St George’s harbour, where we anchored.


 I whizzed across the island on the bus, with Bermuda and family memories flooding back at every bend. The final final leg was in a taxi, and although it has been 10 years since i was last here – finally a very familiar driveway came into sight, then a familiar house, then two familiar faces with open arms! My grandparents welcomed me in happily, and, in a nice normal practical grandparenty kind of way, we promptly sat down to tea in front of the 6 o’clock news. It suddenly seemed more like I’d just popped in to visit them from down the road, no big fuss, and in some ways it is like that, I just planned to come and visit my grandparents, like most people do, it’s just that they live quite far away and my chosen mode of transport meant it took quite a while and I had a bit of an adventure on the way!

My journey stops here for a year, until the winds start to blow in the right direction again and the weather’s just right for me to sail back home to the UK. Not sure if I’ll carry on with the blogging in the meantime – I’m having a think about that one…

THANK YOU to absolutely everyone (in the whole wide world, so it feels) for encouraging me, supporting me, letting me sleep on your couches/beds/beaches/bunks/boats, feeding me, giving me boat rides, car rides, piggy backs, bike rides, kayak rides, for arguing with me and telling I’m an idiot and should just fly, for teaching me songs, knitting, weaving, sailing, new languages, for sailing, hiking, chatting with me, for drumming, singing, dancing, playing, cooking, eating and washing up with me, for sitting in rivers with me, de-niting me, snorkelling with me, digging, weeding, planting, painting with me, and sending me nice emails. I definately could not have made it here without you!

Love, Charlotte

(I’ll finally be uploading lots of photos soon, so watch this space!)

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Esperando en Culebra

On my return from Dominica i had a few days living back on my nice familiar Tortola beach, where i found all the chickens had had new families of chicks, the goats had had babies, my compost heap i created 2 months previously had nicely composted, i caught up with friends, and got my hands back in the soil with a few days work back on the farm. Then i finally got the word for where i should meet my Bermuda boat. So, i headed over to St Thomas (a few islands away) by ferry, and met Ted, the skipper, and Restless, the boat – 40 foot ‘Cape Dory’. It turns out Ted was not in such a hurry to leave for Bermuda, after all my anxiousness to reach him in time, and we sailed back to his home mooring in Culebra, an island of Puerto Rico, where we have now been for the last 10 days! Ted is retired and into enjoying life in a very very relaxed way, which i have been happy to adapt to as well. We have been preparing the boat little by little in between food, siestas and dips in the ocean, whilst keeping an eye on the forecasts for the perfect weather window that will give us a nice comfortable ride Northwards. We’ve been snorkelling and scuba diving to scrub the hull clean of algae and barnacles (that’ll give us an extra few knots!), sewing sails, oiling the wooden bits of the deck, cleaning windows, provisioning the boat with food, water, fuel and propane, all inbetween little sails round the island, snorkelling the lush reefs (the most spectacular huge swaying purple and yellow sea fans i have yet seen), practicing saxaphone and fiddle (that’s Ted), singing sea shanties (both of us), learning the tin whistle (me), exploring the tiny sleepy island (one day on a hired bike, back on two wheels, yey!), and marvelling at the recycling bins all over the place – the first i’ve seen in the Caribbean. I am in US territory here, but it doesn’t feel like it, it is all very hispanic, i’ve been singing Spanish hymns (at church – always good for a sing song and welcoming community wherever i go!), dancing to salsa and cuban drums, and the Culebran / Puerto Rican people range from white to Spanishy brown, to black as they are all mixed up descendents of Spanish colonisers, Tainho Indians (the indigenous people) and African slaves. 

To bring us right up to date, my latest news is that i have, slightly embarressingly, NITS! I don’t know where they came from but i do think it is a bit of a faux pas as crew assets go – bringing itchy jumping parasites on board where we have to live in such close proximity!  However, luckily Ted has not chucked me off the boat, and has even gone beyond the call of duty of a skipper to his crew, and helped me combing them out of my hair!

Anyway, we hope to actually set off on the 6-7 day sail to my final destination (for a year), tomorrow (7th May) evening when there are some nice consistent Easterly winds (which are good for sailing Northwards). We will be sailing along one side of the Bermuda Triangle, all the way…… but i’m feeling pretty confident and safe on this nice little boat, Ted has done this passage several times, and i am obviously very excited to finally on the last leg of my journey to Bermuda!

By the way, anyone interested can follow our progress from Ted’s website, we can update it mid-ocean – this boat’s high tech! (And also wind and solar powered, hooray!):

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My Dominica Story

My detour down to Dominica felt like going to a different world and back, and so this may be my most ridiculously long and epic blog entry yet! For the readers who are vaguely interested but would rather it didn’t take up their whole evening, there’s a very brief version first:

After a dirty, uncomfortable but fun boat ride down, i spent 5 weeks exploring this glorious island which is economically poor, but rich in everything that i, personally, think is worth being rich in – good locally grown food, clean water, happiness, connectedness to nature and community solidarity. I lived with familys, yoga teachers, drug dealers, cooked on fires, bathed in volcanic hot springs and under waterfalls, harvested and ate yams, dasheen, coconut, cocoa, breadfruit, papaya, coconut, sweetsop, green, yellow and red bananas, weaved baskets, was nearly mugged, watched possum be hunted down and ate it roasted, hiked through rainforests, got almost lured into drug smuggling, and fell in love… with this country. I had a bit of a stressful and scary drama trying to find a boat ride back Northwards, and ended up doing the unthinkable… but you’ll have to skip below to read more about that!

Now here’s the full story:

The boat ride down from the BVIs was pretty rough both sea wise and living conditions, but was all good fun and i was very fond of the characterful crew, just their excellent names i think will set the scene nicely for you: Marley, Canadian, Jones, Conrad and.. a lady, i can’t remember her name. As it was so rough, loud, smokey, hot, there wasn’t much else any of us could do but lie down, so we all just lay for 2 days either on mattresses inside until it was too hot from the engine, or went on deck and made a little cardboard bed amongst bananas, grapefruits and coconuts and lay there till was too wet from waves. Going past Monserrat was spectacular and really sad – the volcano is still smoking since the last eruption which covered the whole capital in a layer of hot ash, killed lots of people, and made refugees of many more  (including my friend Luke and family, now living in Leicester). I could see all the buildings and roads completely grey, really ghostly, and then i could see the, now hard grey, lava flow coming down the mountain into the sea.

We arrived late on a Sunday night in Dominica, so one of the crew invited me to stay with his family, who were all lovely, and all either a bit mad or on high on crack. His brother is an aspiring politician, so i had some great discussions with him about the future of Dominica and as he enthused about wanting the world to visit Dominica both from pride and for the income from tourism, and i enthused back as much as i could about Dominica’s strength (it seems to me) being it’s self-sufficiency in food, water and energy and they should protect that.

Then i spent two weeks in the ‘Carib Territory’, which is the area finally set aside for the Caribindian community, the indigenous people of the Caribbean (there before Columbus’s time), after hundreds of years of persecution and massacres. This area is yet more of a different world, where they are still living, in some ways, as they have for hundreds of years. I stayed with the family of Johnny, a Caribindian friend i made up in Tortola, so i was very very lucky to be straight away integrated into local family life. Within seconds of my arrival at their home, Brianna (4) excitedly handed me a bit of rope to skip and we skipped together for a few hours, then Papoi (6) and Shanna (10) came home and we climbed trees, hung ropes and swung on them, and picked sweet juicy kashimas (custard apple), and so it continued for weeks – i spent my days playing, helping cook, wash, plant, going for little walks in the forest, bathing in the river, and wandering through the villages going to visit friends of friends of family.  Every task was a pleasure – maybe just because it is novel to me, for example helping cook meant sitting on the grass peeling strange new vegetables with Brianna climbing all over me and a beautiful view down the hill past little wooden houses, breadfruit trees and coconut palms and out to sea, feeding the scraps to the little snuffling piglet, stoking the fire, and then at the end a delicious meal! Sometimes cooking meant a killing – once we had crayfish from the nearby river – you have to pull off each of their heads and drag out a little line of mud from running along their spine, before boiling them in a pot of rice, but for the tiny bit of meat in each one, personally it didn’t seem worth the effort or the death.  Another joy was being around Anne-marie, the grandmother of the family, an incredible lady who has been bed ridden for the last 30 years (legs paralyzed when she fell over awkwardly at home), it felt like a caribbean version of Charlie’s family in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with all the grandparents in bed. So Granny lives in her tiny wooden house on stilts, with a shuttered doorway right by her bed, so all day she can look out across the garden to the kitchen (corrugated iron shack with a fire place), from there she can watch Rose, her daughter, cooking and her grandkids playing, and shout to us to stoke the fire or run to the shop to get bread. She has visitors to her little doorway all day long, and it took me a few days before i realised they were not all just popping by to say hello, there were also little exchanges – it turned out that Granny is a weed dealer! Marujana is as common and accepted as tobbacco here, but it is still illegal and occasionally the police have a token crack down and arrest someone for holding a spliff, or they go and burn down their crop up in the mountains, and then everything goes back to normal, it seems.  So Anne MArie spends her days preparing little bags of weed, so that she can, as she told me ‘make a petit dollar to buy my bread’ – her way of contributing to the family pot. She also managed to attentively look after the family’s chickens which run around free near the house, she broke up coconut into bite size pieces and threw it out the window for them, then by shouting and wielding a little brush (which she makes using the spines of palm leaves) from her doorway, she could somehow shoo away the intruder chickens whilst protecting her own. We communicated in a fun jumble of French patois and broken English. Patois or creole is spoken by and to most of the older people here, but the younger generations now all speak in English, or a beautiful Dominican version of English, which has a bit of a soft French accent and uses lots of phrases like, umm now i can’t think of any good ones, but for now: ‘i not accustomed to that’, ‘i cryin for wood’ (ie. i really NEED some wood), ‘you sorry for de fish?’ (that was said to me often, i don’t think it’s a common phrase!).  I also spent three fun days learning to make baskets with Papa Son and Virginie, master basket weavers, whilst a continual stream of slightly drunken men wandered into the workshop/shop (which also sells shots of generic potent alcohol, i never worked out what it was made from, and all the leching drunken men put me off ever trying it) to try their luck with me (proposals varied from marriage to asking for just some quick sex up in their veg patch). Finally i finished a big basket which i brought proudly home to my family as a present, and it is now sitting in their little kitchen filled, as it should be, with green bananas and yams . Most familys in this community are very self sufficient, they supplement their income with weaving the traditional baskets, having little stalls/shops by the road selling bread, sweets, the odd jelly coconut (young ones), and mobile top-up cards, and occasionally a temporary job in construction, but for the most part, it seemed, they all have a little bit of land up in the forest where they grow their root/carbohydrate type crops, which they call ‘provisions’ like  dasheen, yam, cassava, sweet potato, figs (what they call bananas), plantain, squash, and then from all around they pick coconut, papaya, grapefruit, sweetsop… One friend, Bruno, took me up to his land and we picked watercress and cocoa ( the beans come covered in this yummy sweet pulp which you can chew off before the cocoa gets processed), and i saw their crop of  ‘larouma’ growing which is the reed they use for the basket weaving (so they are self sufficient even in their craft materials).  They do buy rice, wheat flour, milk, and meat  – even  though there are little familys of chickens running happily everywhere, feeding off food scraps, everyone seems to usually buy chicken in frozen form from the one shop in the village which has a freezer.  And fishing – they dive off the treacherous rocky coast and go spear gun fishing, or more traditionally they go out fishing in their wooden canoes which they carve straight out of one tree trunk, felled in the depths of the mountain forests, carved out, then dragged down to the village, and finished off in different ways, one process i watched them do was building fires all around the canoe to heat up the wood, filling the boat with rocks, then throwing cold water over it (too expand the wood maybe?). One day when i came to to weave baskets, i found Papa Son (who’s about 60yrs old) sewing a big square of white cloth, and he said it was a sail for his canoe, and that he wa going to sail to Guadeloupe! However, i shouldn’t have been surprised – it was in a canoe just like this in which a big group of them sailed to Guyana (South America)  a few years ago, to retrace the Caribindian roots. 

As with every community i have met like this though, many of them of course aspire to live in a more developed Western way, many want cars, tv, office jobs etc. but the difference here, i felt, was that every Caribindian, and in fact every Dominican i met recognises the value of the wilderness they have left to cover their island – they are proud of the abundance of food, fresh water, and the beauty it provides. And they take advantage of it, they farm, gather and hunt and bath in the rivers, but as far as i could see, they have not exploited it. They are an incredibly inspiring example of a sustainable community for the world, and i told them that lots! Having said all that, i’m sure there are plenty of problems too, i’d need to live there to really know the score, and i realise sometimes i look through rose tinted spectacles when i am having nice time!

Finally i must pay tribute to Rose, the mother of the family i stayed with – one of those silent strong women who stoically provides for and holds her family and community together, not only without complaint, but with a big smile on her face, she washes, cleans, cooks and gardens all day every day for five children, the pig, the goats, the dog, and for the last 30 years her mother. And then she happily accepted me as part of her family for a few weeks, she is amazing, and i told her that!

I was so so sad to say goodbye to this little family of unbelieveably cute, fun, adventurous and affectionate children and strong wise women. I left them with gifts of books, colored pencils and paper, some money, batteries (things they said they needed), and a promise to send a wind up torch and radio one day so they wouldn’t need batteries again, and big hugs!

So then i spent a week over on the more developed west coast, staying with yet more wonderful couchsurfer hosts. Firstly yoga teacher and couchsurfer host queen Trudy (she has had 30 couchsurfers, just this year so far!) with whom i did yoga and had many lengthy discussions about the wonder of Dominica and, from a vegetarian self-sufficiency point of view – why they don’t grow beans there anymore (she is on a mission to get them growing beans again). Then lovely couchsurfer host English Jo, whose home was a little pocket of England in this foreign land, we ate baked beans and watched the BBC on her laptop. Then i became a traditional penniless traveller due to some bank access problems, so i lived on plantains, grapefruit and peanuts, until the Guadeloupean peanut farmers went on strike, then i was down to just fruit. (I should credit my family here for bailing me out, and dealing with my frantic and out of the blue ‘hi-sorry-i’m-running-out-of-credit-but-can-you…’ phone calls, whilst my bank cut me off for a while!).  Ironically that was the time a guy chose to try to mug me, as i wandered alone up a forest track just out of the capital. Not content with my offering of my last bag of peanuts, he demanded all my money and tried to yank my rucksack off my back. I managed to run away, and i later reflected that this was the only mildly scary incident i had had in all my travels, that i am a lucky lucky person and that generally i had felt very safe in Dominica so i should not let this scare me or taint my memories. This week i also did some spectacular mountain treks, one of which took me through the fantastically named ‘Valley of Desolation’ to the ‘Boiling Lake’. And it lived up to it’s name entirely. I went with a guided group this time, as i was warned that one wrong step and i’d have a boiled leg, and i do have a recent habit of getting lost in woods on my own. After trekking over two rainforested mountains we arrived drenched in the valley of stinking (like rotten eggs)  sulphurous rocks, streams of yellow (sulphur), black (carbon) and grey (um, some volcanic minerals), water , and steaming bubbling water splurting out of cracks. We picked our way down the valley wading through the warm water and jumping over the boiling water, then over a few more hills till we reached a cliff edge past which i could see nothing but mist, but then a breeze blew the mist towards us and i could feel warmth – it was steam! For just a moment, the steam cleared and, peering over the edge i could see literally a big boiling lake! It was truly like a sight from a storybook, like a giant’s bubbling cauldron or something, it was unbelievable. On the way back we stopped for a soak in the warm volcanic mineralled water which relaxed me to the core, so that i blissed out, lost all momentum and the guide had to poke and coral me all the way back over the mountains.


Next, it was time to try to head back up to Tortola to gather my belongings and head for Puerto Rico to meet my, probable, boat to Bermuda. So i moved up to Portsmouth, Dominica’s main port town, hoping to spend a few days before jumping on the banana boat again, which was due to make it’s fortnightly delivery. The banana boat fell through immeadiately – it has stopped going to Tortola (apparently in need of repairs, which i’m not surprised at!). Then followed a few days, leading to a week, then two weeks of searching for a boat ride North,which lead me to dallying on the edge of a seedy world of sex crazed beach boys, yet more dodgy skippers, drug smuggling and illegal human trafficking. I was slightly anxious most of the time, constantly getting myself, as politely as possible, out of pickles, where an offer of a bed would turn out to be an offer of sex or an expectation to bear my host’s, or their son’s, next 10 children, or an offer of a boat passage turned out to be an invite to help Tortola get this weeks supply of cocaine. I don’t think i was ever in any very serious danger, i was never forced to do anything, and i was never in fear of violence or theft, however, (remembering lessons learnt from Bridget Jones’s Diary 2), i did check every single nook and cranny of my baggage, just in case anything had been planted on me, just before i finally left the country!

It’s funny how different people view me, or view travelling on boats in such different ways – here, even though i always explained i didn’t want to fly  because of the pollution (to which everyone said, oh you’re a rasta girl), they still all assumed i couldn’t afford to fly (therefore would be up for some drug smuggling), was an illegal immigrant or was looking for a position as bikini clad eye candy on some rich man’s megayacht.

In spite of this slightly scary underground world i found myslef in, hanging around on the beach waiting for yachts and cargo boats and getting myself in pickles, led me on all sorts of unique adventures and to get to know all sorts of wierd and wonderful people. One guy, Dean, lived in a beautiful tree house by the beach, with his girlfriend AND two children, i hung out there lots and he seemed to take lots of pleasue in giving me a continual supply of roasted breadfruit. Another guy, Humptee, let me sleep on his floor with his two puppies, and took me on excting hikes into the hills off the beaten track, to secret waterfalls, to pick fruit, dig for yams. to collect calabash (a big green hard round fruit) and sit in the river scooping them out to make bowls for his house. Once, on a moonlit walk, he killed a possum, he gutted and roasted on the fire the next day, and i did try a bit, it was sad but tasty. A great French girl i met, Agathe, took me to hot springs and rivers where we lazed around and she tole me about falling in love with Dominca and a Dominican who she has now moved from France to live with. I could well see this happening to me, having fallen in love with this country, and part of me was definately falling for one or two of these nice men, impressing me with teir excellent self-sufficiency skills and their inherent connectedness to the earth, and their general very attractiveness. I was often asked by these proud Dominicans why i wouldn’t come and live there, in my kind of  paradise, and i had moments of wondering why not too, but then i remembered my mission! I’ve been travelling for 7 months so far, to visit my grandparents, because they live an ocean away from the rest of my family. So, however amazing the journey has been, i still don’t want to live forever an ocean away from my family  and friends – we would have to spend most of each year travelling to visit each other (which is silly unless you want to live on a boat always at sea, or impossible for some), or we would all have to fly, or we would have to give up our close relationships. I love them all too much for this, and i do love England too!


Now this brings me to my guilty confession, and the fact that i need to change the title of this website. As the weeks drew on in Dominica my boat search continued unsuccessfully, all boats seemed to be going South and my fellow beach dwellers (tourist guides and water taxis) started to greet me like a familiar neighbour (with an ultra cool handshake, a grin and an offer of a mango (just coming in to season mmmm)), i started to get anxious that i would not make it in time, or at all, to Puerto Rico for my Bermuda boat. Coupled with the fact that i kept getting mixed up with nice but dodgy drug smugglers, i decided to FLY!!! But only back to Tortola. So, i suppose my failure here was getting all carried away with exploring, straying from my mission, and taking a detour back Southwards, which meant i risked not being able to get Northwards again. The other lesson to be learnt here is to be more flexible – i could have, maybe should have, given up on getting the Puerto Rico boat, however the risk there would have been that i may still not have found a boat to leave Dominica, and there’s no guarantees that i’d have got another to take me to Bermuda. Another thought i had, as i waited guiltily and excitedly for my plane, was that all this time taken, the long round about route, the traumas (and adventures) of boat hitching, which most people would not or could not do instead of flying, has only been necessary for my journey because there are so many planes. If there were no planes, people would still want to travel so there would be more ferries and passenger ships, and if there was no oil there would be sailing passenger ships by now i’m sure! (And of course people would just have to travel less and familys would live closer together.)

Anyway, i decided i should atleast appreciate it if i was going to do the deed. And it was fun! I whizzed through the skies, and above the clouds, and down to the islands, this was more like a little local bus – the plane carried about 30 people and stopped at a few islands on the way to drop off some and pick up others. You know, i do love flying, i just wish the planes could be constructed out of old tetrapaks (no new resources), hand sewn together (no energy used), run on wind and last forever. On the other hand, on a scale of fun, i would still say that the boat was still better – it took 3 days, i got to sleep amongst bananas, stop in St Martin for the day and go to the beach, see Monserrat volcano close up, make friends with the crew and be invited to stay with their family – i’d have never done all that if i’d flown there!

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Hands in the earth, fire and water

Since my last update i’ve spent an excting month in Tortola (British Virgin Islands) living on a beach and volunteering on an organic farm / art studio/ cafe/ craft festival and sailing round the islands, i’ve made a spontaneous (fossil fuel powered, but still at sea and accompanying fruit cargo) detour back Southwards again to experience the legendary eco-paradise of Dominica, and, after much lamenting over my life in England and sadness from missing my friends and family, i have finally made the difficult but exciting decision to stay and work in Bermuda for a year once i get there. (And i have found a windpowered ride to Bermuda at the end of April!)

The Virgin Islands

At the end of January I managed to hitch a ride with Midge and Michael on ‘Sundowner’, my biggest and most luxiourious ride yet! This was an 80 foot ‘Oyster’ (to put it in perspective, i crossed the Atlantic on a 42 ft boat), less than a year old. I was excited to get sailing again and anxious to work for my passage, but alas this was one of those press button boats, with electric winches to hoist the sails, everything computerized, a selfsufficient crew of two, and we ended up motoring all the way, so i had to settle for making fruit salad and trying to be nice company! Arriving in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs) by sea is breathtaking – they are about 10 dark dark green mountain tops, a few miles apart rising out of the deep blue sea, and hundreds of sailing boats blowing between them.  Somehow i seemed to fit in on this boat, Midge’s daughter joined us, and they invited me to stay a few extra days of fun sailing round the British Virgin Islands, snorkelling, climbing rocks, eating in posh restaurants, until i was finally dropped off in Virgin Gorda. Virgin Gorda is an island the shape of a pregnant lady (or a ‘fat virgin’ as named by Columbus), lying floating in the sea. I spent a day climbing to the peak of the virgin’s belly, melting for a few hours on an extremely steep winding tarmac road, refusing many offers of lifts by bemused islanders, and then whizzing through a few miles of twisting paths tunneling through tangled woodland accompanied by the bizarre local fauna of wild chickens (each followed by a clutch of chirping chicks), snakes, lizards and enormous bright red hermit crabs (i am amazed, the shell-less crabs must trek 100s of crab miles down and up the mountain to get a shell from the sea!).   

From Virgin Gorda i caught a little ferry across to Trellis Bay, Tortola, intending to couchsurf a night at a cool sounding beachside cybercafe, before trying to head over to the Dominican Republic, but i ended up staying a month. What i found was a little bay, with a little beach, and a little community of artisans (Caribbean, European, American, S.African), boat dwellers, dive bombing pelicans, and WWOOFERS! For those who don’t know, this stands for Worldwide Workers On Organic Farms, which is a worldwide network of independent farms which invite people to and volunteer for them in exchange for food and accomodation. So i spent a very happy and exciting month sleeping under a palm leaf  roof on the beach, my hands finally in the earth digging, weeding, planting, harvesting, selling and eating  spinach, arugula, basil, bananas and cassava up at the farm in the hills, hitching rides in the back of pick up trucks to the beach, jumping in the ocean to cool off,  sitting in the outdoor artstudio listening for hours to Jacob, a craftsman from St Vincent tell his life story and Caribbean myths and legends whilst helping him sand down his black coral bracelets, learning Caribindian drumming and singing with Johnny from Dominica, and many many other random tasks set for us by farmer/artist Aragorn – the man on a hundred missions including helping Tortola to produce more of its own food, supporting and encouraging arts and crafts through his arts studio and shop and the Caribbean Arts and Crafts Festival and helping build wooden canoes in Dominica and sailing them round the Caribbean and down to Guyana (S.America) to retrace the steps/paddels of the Caribindians (thought to be the first to populate the Caribbean). So our other random tasks involved killing, gutting and scaling freshly caught fish, building fires for the monthly full moon beach parties (including fire balls and raku ceramics firing by two ceramicists here, one of which i amazingly coincidently met in Greece 6 years ago on a turtle conservation project), feeding the chickens, hacking down bamboo in the forest and making it into stalls for the crafts festival, sailing catamarans from one side of the island to the other, building a compost bin, organising and modelling in a fashion show, helping the Chocolate man (one of the artisans) to sell the GOODEST chocolate i have ever met – from Grenada (so sort of local to Tortola), fairtrade, organic, small scale, animal product free, and srumdidliumpcious (especially after a severe 3 month chocolate deficiency (it’s not popular here and is never vegan). To get an idea of the place i have been living, you can see some photos of the beach and the fire filled full moon parties in the ‘Gallery’ of this website:

I have been getting more used to occasionally killing and eating fish, but am still sticking to the locally, sustainably (as far as i can tell) caught. I still find it a very strange and distressing experience (as i am sure it is also for the fish) – especially when i am whacking the end of a knife down on the head of an angel fish (which i am always so excited to see when snorkelling) with it’s luminious blue and yellow scales and it’s little pouty lips which keep flexing after it is dead.  However, i still intend to return to veganism, i think, when i get back to the UK, and try to grow more beans and nuts for locally produced protein.

It was so good to settle for a while, to have a kitchen where i could myself cook all the exciting new local produce – sorrel (flowers infused to make juice), yams, cassava, arugula, pigeon peas, coconut and of course angel fish and red snappers. And it felt especially satisfying ( and helpful for bank balance) to be working in exchange for food. I also did painting and cooking at the cybercafe in exchange for internet, rum punches and Caribs (local beer) – one day i even ended up as a model windsurfer student for some promotional pictures in exchange for breakfast!  

I also went to the US! The US Virgin Islands are just next door and i went over  by ferry to meet a potential yacht for the leg to Bermuda, which never materialised. Entry to the US was scary – immigration took my fingerprints and my photo,  and they had guns, and i thought for a moment i may get deported as a criminal because  it said you cannot enter if you have ever been arrested, even if not charged, (which is true of me) but it turned out it was only for violent or drug related offences (though surely you are innocent anyway if not charged?). To cut a potentially long story short, i had a fun time in the US, with lovely lovely couchsurf hosts, getting completely and slightly worryingly lost on my own for a day in the forest, and seeing an enormous purple iguana on the beach (one day i hope to post a photo).

Finally i want to write about an amazing lady i met, (amongst many many other amazing ladies and men, children and animals too numerous to mention), called Akilah, from Trinidad. She runs a reforestation project there as well as making incredible big dramatic natural jewellry for which she has grown her own trees so she can now harvest the seeds – so it is truly sustainable, and beautiful. I always have this dilemma about collecting natural materials like shells and seeds, as souvenirs or to make things – because you are taking it out of carefully balance ecosystem which must need those materials. For this reason i usually now take a photograph instead, and i now have loads of quite boring photos of shells which i will never end up doing anything with! But here Akilah has worked out an answer.

As i write this i am now down in Dominica, and even though i have got a little behind in my blog writing i am looking forward to writing about this incredible place in my next entry – whenever it is i next manage sit down with internet access and lots of time. My plan is to head back up to Tortola next week (hoping i’ll find a sail boat, but more likely the dirty black smoking banana boat again), then to Puerto Rico, for a yacht to Bermuda (about 85% sure, i just need to meet the skipper face to face before it’s certain.)

For now, lots and lots of love to all, from a land of rainforest, cooking on fires, cocoa and red bananas.


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Pineapples and politics

Antigua has been really good fun, and i’ve been lucky enough to stay the whole time with a friendly family, on Delightful Drive, Mount Pleasant (doesn’t it sound like Mr Men land?!), in the North of the island, which is mainly gentle rolling scrubland, dotted with small colourful concrete houses with tin rooves and mango and grapefruit trees, growling tied up dogs, and cris crossed with dirt tracks, and the odd tarmac road with insane deathwish minibuses and 4x4s racing along them, screeching to a halt every ten yards to give someone a lift. I’ve been clubbing with Sharee and Travis the teenagers of the house (just like my experience of clubbing in England, but the dancing’s a lot more ‘suggestive’!), chatting about sailing and travelling with Guido, the sailor of the house, and chatting politics with Jennifer the political activist (and social worker, mother and bar tender) of the house. Politics are ‘hot hot hot’ (Jennifer’s words) here at the moment, with elections imminent. It all seems like just good Caribbean fun at first glance – the joyful banter on the buses, the flag waving rallys all day and all night, traffic jamming the roads and the 4x4s covered in flags, loudspeakers blaring out manifestos and annoying jingles, parading through the streets at all hours. However, as i learn more, and get more irritated  by the rubbish jingles everywhere (‘if you wanna stop Labour pain, vote for UPP again’ – imagine with calypso beat), it’s not so fun. There are just 2 parties (and a couple of independents) and it’s getting pretty tense  and even violent, between the supporters. Just one of the issues which heightens the tension is that, apparently, whichever party is elected consequently finds ways to sack any civil servants who didn’t support them in the election.  So they are in the end fighting for their livelihoods. Everything seems to run on rumours and speculation, and constant accusations of corruption, and parliament is crazy with personal insults about individual’s families being thrown both to and from the Prime Minister! (Though i should say that i don’t think this is a normal occurance – everyone was a bit shocked.)

Tension has heightened even more by the murder of the Australian yachtsman last week, as the goverment is blamed for poor policing. I don’t know how international this news was, but this guy was shot, next to his wife and baby, during a mugging. Things were really really sad down in English and Falmouth Harbour, for the few days after, all was very quiet, all the bars and restaurants closed and all the boats are starting to leave. The guy was very well known and liked, and you know that everyone is thinking in their heads – that could easily have been me. From my point of view, compared to my euphoric description in my blog entry of the idylic Caribbean, when i walk down that road now the enormous gap between the rich and the poor and the resentment there is suddenly much much more obvious. But from talking to lots of Antiguans about it, the rise in violent crime like this is more complicated than that other issues are –  drugs, unemployment, policing.

Feeling pretty nervous about being a lone, white, and supposedly rich tourist, i headed off into the hills, thinking that robbers wouldn’t be expecting money loaded tourists to be wandering regularly enough through the forest for it to be worth waiting to pounce. And my confidence was totally restored after meeting lovely, friendly, open and generous Antiguans, and a very cute mongoose eating a coconut, all day a long my way.

Apart from these more serious happenings, i have been having a jolly time whizzing round on the little buses, or being picked up by police or random people (usually concerned for my safety standing waiting for the bus) and, for example, invited to their beautiful organic (mostly) pineapple, mango , guava, banana farm. In between i have been searching for boats to island hop, and having many mini-adventures as i get directed by old ladies sitting selling plantains and drunken fishermen from one harbour to another. I did find the banana boat to Dominica which takes just three passengers and you have to call the captain’s mobile to book it.  I was very excited at the prospect of going South to lush, fruit filled, rainforest covered, French speaking Dominica. However, i have decided to go where the wind takes me, and have found a yacht to take me north to Tortola (British Virgin Islands), which is closer to the Dominican Republic where i hope i can settle, live cheaply, learn Spanish, volunteer for a charity, and wait for a boat to Bermuda in Spring.

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Seafaring heroes

During the many hours of staring out to sea, my thoughts often drifted to others who i knew would also be floating out at sea, somewhere in the world. Here are three of them, on much more heroic, risky and altruistic missions than me!:

OJ in Palestine. OJ is one of the people who inspired me to sail, she is amazing, and last year travelled over land and sea to Cyprus from where she then sailed through Israeli military blockades to Palestine, and has since been going out to sea with Palestinian fishermen, acting as a human shield to try to stop the military shooting at them, as they fished for their daily food. Unbelievably and humblingly, OJ took the time to email me 2 weeks ago, from the warzone, to congratulate me on my Atlantic crossing. From panicking for her when i first heard the news once we had landed, i was so relieved to hear she was ok, but she also told me she, along with the Palestinians, was in a ‘living hell’. Even if the main bombings have stopped (so i hear), i know that the aftermath will be as hellish, and the suffering continues. So i don’t know what to do but we can read about it, and do something, at the very least, about it here:

Then i thought about Vitze (i actually have no idea how to spell his name!), from Nottingham, who i met just before we both set sail for different oceans. He is on the Sea Shepard, and looks from their blog, like they are currently in Japanese waters trying to save the Minke and Fin whales from being hunted. (You can read about that here:

And i thought about Lista Light – a beautiful beautiful old wooden boat, with proper rigging you have to haul (no winches), and a crew of ecologists ( and a  fiddle player, shanty singer, and tandem riders), who were setting off for the Atlantic crossing Las Palmas – Antigua, at the same time as i did.  They planned to do the whole crossing without engine power for propulsion, and were even attempting to navigate old style – with a sextant. So i had wondered how long they would have been bobbing around for in the no wind patch that we had hit (which we used our engine to escape from!) and I had started to worry about them when two weeks after we arrived i had not yet sighted them. However, i have since heard from them, to my relief, that they ended up in St Martin instead (deliberately), but had indeed been becalmed for a week, plus had a disastrous snapping of the mast or boom or something, and almost abandoned ship, but even with this managed to cross in only about 6 days more than we did. Wuhoo for wind power!! You can read about them here:   and for an gripping account (better than mine) of their atlantic crossing, you can read some of the crew’s account here (everyone has blog these days!):

Lista Light

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Atlantic tales

Here’s what it was  like, for me, to cross the Atlantic by wind power (mostly):

It took about 3 weeks, i was queasy for the whole of the first rocky week, until i reached the end of my tether and actually shouted at the sea ‘will you please just stop moving, just for one minute!!’, and Patchamama answered again (i didn’t even have to bury an orange this time) – we were becalmed the next day!


As for wildlife –  i saw 3 beautiful dorados (all fighting with our fish hook, killed and eaten), 1 shiny silver tuna (killed an eaten), 1 little stripey fish which lived under our boat the whole way, hundreds of flying fish ( they literally do fly – hundreds of metres across the water, fluttering their wing – fins), an elegant white bird with a long long tail circled above us for about a week , and 3 black coloured birds whizzed around skimming the waves nearby for about a week too (unbelieveable how they don’t rest),


i also saw a moonlit rainbow, about 3 other boats (and only at either end near to land), i swam in the ocean twice, hanging off the boat and being dragged along, until the thought of the 3000 fathoms of water below me and man-eating sharks made me panic and jump back out, sang christmas carols (slightly different Canadian and Dutch versions), celebrated New Year twice as we crossed time zones, we tacked, gybed, went wing on wing, tried every sail configuration as the wind came at us from a different direction nearly every day, we sailed through huge crashing waves, floated up and over gentle hills, glided through smooth flat planes, when the auto pilot was working i sat silently on my nightwatches, the boat rocking from side to side, knitting and watching for shooting stars (and glancing about for unlikely ships on the horizon, and for dark clouds coming our way), the phosphoresence in the wake of the boat made it feel like we were floating in the stars, then when the autopilot couldn’t cope with the gusty wind, we steered for 2-3 hours each at a time, my first few shifts of steering were very stressful what with the skipper, Dirk, being quite a shouty skipper even in the calmer times – when you’re steering sometimes a wave throws the boat off course (or, for example, if you maybe occasionally lose concentration due to an AMAZING blazing shooting star or you lose your bearings with blurred tired vision due to a very long shift of steering in the middle of the night) – then the wind gets suddenly round the wrong side of the sail, and the slamming of the sail cloth pulling against the mast bangs and echoes all through the boat and makes the skipper awake and be a bit shouty about the potential tearing of his very expensive sails – those times were a bit tense, especially when there were actually several tears in the sails, but my steering got better and after a week or so i was enjoyng steering with the wind, with the momentum of the boat and surfing down the waves. I think if you do long distance sailing like this without an autopilot (which does use some energy – for which you have to run the engine to charge up the batteries, although this boat had solar panels which provided about enough for the auto), then you would definately need more crew than 3! I think the vision of the compass is etched into my eyes now from staring at it so much, particularly the sector between 260 – 270 degrees.


In the day time, i learnt to knit from Ann (i did intend to knit a scarf but have ended up with a nice small square, with lots of holes – dropped stiches where i got distracted by a flying fish or a hasty sail adjustment), and i made rope out of every bit of rubbish on the boat, with which i learnt to crochet and practiced my sailors knots. I scrubbed every tiny bit of rust off the metal parts of the boat, with a toothbrush, and i polished the fibreglass deck. I marvelled at Ann preparing delicious meals, baked bread and cakes with just one gas hob and whilst we rocked at 45 degree angles (so said the lev-o-metre), and, anxious to help i tried to edge my way in to the kitchen, but with my strange vegan tendancies and after a few spillages Ann tactfully said that actually she really likes doing ALL the cooking, so i didn’t get to perfect my boat culinary skills much more than making hummus and cultivating bean sprouts, but i do in theory now know how to bake bread in a pressure cooker and how to make a few Dutch dishes. I also listened to a hundred and one tales of the high seas from the two of them, and tales of hunting bears, dredging for gold in the Yukon, a childhood of eating tulip bulbs (due to post-war poverty, not a Dutch delicacy), emmigrating on a big ship to Canada, and 50 more years of life after that – of which i now know most of the details. Dirk spent his time wondering whether to adjust the sails, change direction, and fixing things (including the engine several times and sewing up tears in the sails – with a beautiful old hand powered sewing machine), and telling me tales. Ann spent her time cooking, crocheting covers for the fenders, adjusting the sails, and searching for loose items in the cupboards making annoying banging sounds on every rock of the boat.


We also fished, and i ate the fish we caught, as i had promised my hosts in a compromise to their meaty diet, and as i had considered that maybe fishing, rather than, for example, carrying processed and canned beans, was the more environmentally harmonious and therefore moral diet when at sea.  I don’t know if this right or how you work out if it is right, but this is what it was like: the first one we caught, a 2 foot, shimmering golden with blue spots, dorado, it had the hook through it’s cheek and it’s eyeball, it fought against being reeled in for 20 minutes, then was dragged on board using another big hook gauged into it’s side, then Dirk used a big wooden mallet to hit it on the head 4 or 5 times, blood pouring out, until it stopped flipping about. Dorados, apparently, have long and loyal relationships with their partners, and this one’s partner stayed right next to it whilst it was being reeled in, and swum next to the boat for a few minutes after it was pulled onboard. Before we ate it that night, Dirk said his grace to god, and i said my grace to the fish and it’s partner, and all fishes (much to their bemusement). But it was really tasty and nutricious, and so were all the fish we ate after that. Since landing, i haven’t felt a particular need to eat fish, and i have loads of fun and adventures seeking out non-animal derived and local produce, so don’t think i am giving up on the veganism yet… (Actually i did eat fish once in a cafe, as the lady was absolutely adament that i could not possibly eat the ‘funghi’ (sort of corn/polenta cake) and vegetables, without meat.  We were both confused and i REALLY wanted to try the funghi, as it’s corn which is grown more locally and every other traditional dish just has imported rice or wheat bread with it, (though i think they might grow rice in Trinidad))


Reading the hardback copy of Harry Potter in Spanish, which i was presented with in Gran Canaria, didn’t end up being compatible with my boat life (so i will be lugging that round the Caribbean with me ridiculously), but what i did find was very compatible was singing sea shanties! They really do roll perfectly with the rocking of the boat, the words are less so like my experience of sailing  – mostly about prostitutes at ports and whale hunting.  So i made up my own, and there has been a new shanty verse for every occasion! (It’s going to be a very long song by the time i get back to the UK). And of course, i learnt lots and lots about sailing, mostly from observation, as Dirk and Ann, having lived in the boat for 20 years have their routines and rolls fairly set, so it’s hard to butt in. But i did sometimes manage to persuade them to let me pull some ropes, and have a go at plotting on the chart, and in between Dirk’s tale telling, i would question them about sail configurations, weather predicting and navigation.

We sighted land at sunset  on the 12th January, and i couldn’t believe that it actually worked – just as the map said, thousands of miles of nothing but sea, and then there is land! Navigating in to English Harbour, around rocks, reefs and other boats, i found really nerve racking after not having anything dangerously solid nearby by for a long while. It was also, obviously, incredibly exciting, and i felt like an old explorer reaching unknown exotic lands (except i didn’t plan to enslave and kill everyone i met.)

P.S. For those interested in the carbon footprint of sailing across the Atlantic,  when i say i travelled by wind power (mostly) – i mean that, over 2800 nautical miles or 24 days, we used the engine for about 47.5 hours and so about 24 gallons of diesel. We had to use the engine every few days to charge the batteries – to give the fridge a boost (it was off for the rest of the time), for the navigational computers and so that there was battery power to start the engine if needed in an emergency. On top of that Dirk, not one to ever like sitting still, put the engine on a couple of times when the wind dropped too much for his liking.  He reckoned that if we had not used the engine for propulsion at all, then it would have taken about the 3 days more.

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