Freedom, Lifestyle, and Peace of Mind was the Dream.
But there’s always a price to pay. A memoir of tears, laughter, adventure, sunshine, sea, salt and often pure terror.
As told by Mitzie Ruffles

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First Chapter Reader Reviews

Written through the eyes of Mitzie one understands the challenges constantly faced. I laughed out loud at the pizza saga, and wonder what happened to the pigeon stowaways. I am fretting about whether the trawler responded and moved out of Ruffles Spray’s way. I also thought the noises of the storm were evocative.
Claire P
What a wave hanger! I want to know what happens next. This is a great story of life time goal and adventure, massively overtaking the experience of the sailors, so we already know it’s going to be ‘interesting’ very atmospheric, and exciting.
Cherry H

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86.2 Nautical Mile to La Coruna, Spain.

The VHF radio crackles, it’s Rowan’s voice in the loudspeaker.

“Ruffles Spray, Ruffles Spray, this is Grampus, Grampus over”.

Mike rushes to the radio, reaches up and unclips the hand mic from its holder screwed to the ceiling “Grampus, Grampus, this is Ruffles Spray. Go ahead, Rowan”.

Rowan replies, “Well, this sea is getting up a bit, but nothing to worry about, we think. What are your thoughts, Mike”?

Mike says, “My guess it’s about ten knots gusting fifteen. What have you got showing on your wind speed system?”

“It’s actually fifteen knots gusting twenty, Mike, but still OK for now”.

“Well, if the wind does get stronger, with this heading we won’t be able to make a course for La Coruna anymore. Let’s look at the chart and see if there is anywhere else to head for that is a little closer, just in case”.

There’s a slight quiver in Mike’s voice. I can tell he is a little worried, what with a new sailing yacht, little sailing experience in bad weather or even in good weather, I sniffed the air. Maybe that was fear I could smell?”

73.5 Nautical Miles to La Coruna

It’s midday, and both skippers have decided to change course for Ribadeo. A small town with a safe harbour about 133 nautical miles east of La Coruna and 56 nautical miles from our current position.

Now that may not sound very far away. It isn’t in a car travelling at 60 miles per hour. However, in a sailing yacht that is only pottering along at 6 mph, that’s nearly ten more hours.

Apparently, there is a formula to work out how fast a sailing yacht can go, but it’s beyond me. I must have said ‘there’s a formula’ out loud as Monty chips in and says, “It’s the square root of the waterline length of the yacht in feet times 1.34”.

“For Ruffles Spray, the square root of 33 feet equals 5.74 times 1.34 equals 7.7 knots maximum speed”.

I give him my ‘do shut up Monty’ stare, and he is immediately silent. He is always full of these little bits of knowledge.

The harbour is due south of us which means that the sea is on our starboard side. Which is not good.

The sea to windward is a mess, little waves on top of larger waves, those larger waves on top of even bigger waves, white tops, all tumbling over each other. Tumbling to be swished up like in a large ladle and emptied on top of another wave. As far as my eyes can see, it’s all blueish green with white tops rolling towards the starboard side of Ruffles Spray. Hitting the starboard topsides with an almighty boom that throws white coloured sea high up in the air and onto Ruffles Spray’s doghouse, which I’m sitting in.

Kaboom, another bit of sea launches itself high in the air and lands on top of the doghouse, some of it smashing into the canvas doghouse cover side. It sounds like firecrackers are going off.

I look over to Mike, who is staring to windward like in a trance. I can smell the fear. It’s tangible in the air. Mike is always trying to hide it, especially when he is speaking to Ann, who is huddled down below, Monty wrapped in her right arm.

Monty is on duty with Ann keeping her safe, calming her. This is what Monty and me agreed on as soon as the waves started. Ann hates waves. I think she’s petrified of them. Her eyes, wide open, look as large as a full moon. The sparkle in them has given way to panic, a panic that she is keeping under control, but Monty has told me that just a little bit of anything else happening could push her over the top.

You see, the book Mike read on heavy weather sailing is to blame. He’s read dozens of books on the sailing subject, and this book advises how to get to grips with a storm. He read out the bit about the dangers of waves, the height of which compared with the beam of a hull. OK, I really don’t understand the technical details or if I’m giving it to you verbatim, but Monty said if a wave is higher than the beam or width of the boat, and that wave hits the boat on its beam, then the wave can roll the boat over.

A sailing yacht does have ballast and would technically right itself, but that’s not how I remember Mike reading this to Ann. The waves are high, probably four or so meters. So technically, if Ruffles Spray was in the wave’s trough and the next wave hit the starboard side as Ruffles Spray was going up the wave, it could roll Ruffles Spray over.

So, Monty and me had a meeting around the mast in the saloon earlier. It’s our usual meeting place, it’s our meeting room, no it’s our boardroom. Monty was in his usual place behind the mast next to the fridge. I was sat in front of the mast slightly towards the bar so I could see Monty better. The meeting was quick, it took less than a minute and agreement was reached that I would look after Mike and that he would look after Ann.

We agreed that subtleness is critical, don’t let them know that we know that they are frightened. I had reassured Monty back in Milford Haven that I had inspected every bit of Mike’s welding and that I deemed the hull tight as a badger’s bottom.

Yes, OK, Monty did point out that he knew a lot more about badgers. He was the expert on badgers. Well, he would be, being a Dachshund. He told me that if it were as tight as a badger’s bottom, then we would sink. I remember that meeting well. An agreement was reached in good time. I said OK the hull was watertight, forget about badgers, and that my friends means this storm could not do anything to Ruffles Spray.

Booom, kaboom snatches me out of my thoughts.

The wind is howling, the gusts are deafening, sounding like jets taking off from an airport. You can hear them starting their take-off run in the distance. Getting louder and louder until, with a roar, they pass over Ruffles Spray growing fainter, rumbling into the distance downwind. Then the next one starts and the next one and the next. Each time the boat rolls to port, all I can see is the sky, and when it rolls back again, all I can see is green sea, and ten more hours of this is going to be really bad.

Ten more hours, roll to the left, crash bang, roll to right crash bang, the noise is deafening. I don’t recommend being on a small boat in bad weather. By small, I mean less than cruise ship size.

The movement is wild. White water rafting wild, not that I have been, but I listen to people talking. It’s like sitting in a waltzer fairground ride and being on a roller coaster at the same time. Just at the moment when it tips over the edge to hurtle down the steep descent. The waltzer shoves you over to the left, then just as sharply the whole boat dips over forward, you get hurled in two directions at the same time.

Ten hours to go, once every minute or so, that’s only 600 times to go.


Maths, I don’t like maths.