Cartagena to Ibiza

The day began pretty relaxed. We were only leaving at about 11am so everyone had a lazy morning and made the most of the marina’s pleasant toilets and showers.

We were sailing a Lagoon 40 catamaran

Once again the wind was on our nose so we spent a lot of time under engine but occasionally the wind would shift a little bit and we’d get some extra power from the sails. But for this journey it was pretty rare that we had the engine off.

The final night passage was my least favourite shift of Midnight until 4am but we could again see the Milky Way and since it was my last night shift for the foreseeable future I kinda put up with it.

As we approached Ibiza we started hitting a little traffic!

Birds trying to steal the fisherman’s catch with Formentera in the background

We then started to catch sight of what I thought was San Antonio…

Turns out it was Ibiza Town.

This is where much confusion began. I’d used booking.com to reserve an apartment a few hundred feet from the marina. Whilst we were filling up with diesel I checked on google maps to see how far the apartment was and was told it was a 25 minute drive. Ooops. Not entirely sure why I thought we were finishing the trip in San Antonio – ho hum.

Happy crew with the details of the journey.

We completed 1314nm with 125hrs under sails and 170hrs using engines.

We then headed into Ibiza Town for dinner where I plumped for some sushi…

Expensive, but good

Then we all said farewell, the two Josh’s and I got a taxi over to our apartment. We checked in and then went out for more drinks, gin and tonic if I recall, and then headed to bed.

The next day, Saturday, was my birthday so we went off in search of food. We walked past Fatso’s thinking it wasn’t quite classy enough for a birthday breakfast – but then we were all craving a fatso’s breakfast for the remainder of the time in town – and subsequently ended up in Rita’s Cantina. I wanted to eat here at some point during the day so it ticked the box and we all enjoyed it immensely.

We then went off in search of jet-ski’s. Founds some but had to wait a couple of hours so we went to a nice chill out bar near the beach and sat on comfy sofas drinking beer and watching people play rugby. It was Tulp Bar and is very much recommended.

We then went on a high speed mash across the sea to blow some cobwebs away

Excellent fun – note Captain Sensible with his t-shirt on.

Following the jet skis we had another couple of beers in Tulp and then headed to the next tick box tourist event which was watching the sun set at Cafe Del Mar on the West side of San Antonio.

After drinks in Cafe Del Mar we were all dressed inappropriately so popped back to the apartment to get some warmer clothes and we rounded off the night in a Thai restaurant. There was talk of the young ‘uns going to a club to dance the night away but there was no way I was dragging my 51yr old body out at midnight. So it was a relatively early night.

Awoke the next morning quite early to find we were almost out of water. Trying to find an open supermarket early on a Sunday in Ibiza is a bit tricky. But eventually found one, bought water, went back to the apartment and packed.

It was as I was packing I started discarding tatty clothes and shoes to lighten my load. So I had to say goodbye to my three-stripes that have travelled the world with me.

Ummmmmm to Cartagena

We set off from the anchorage in the Spanish national park and headed for Cartagena. There was some bad weather coming in ( 30kts+ and rain ) so we decided we’d stay a couple of nights in the marina at Cartagena.

Me waiting to do a day shift

We arrived at the marina after a day or so of sailing [ I don’t think we did a night passage here but it’s a few days later and all starting to blur into one ] and I seem to remember we spent a lot of time on engine to ensure we avoided the storm. We got into the marina quite late and so were pleasantly surprised to find a bar still open and serving food.

The food was edible, the drinks were cold.

After the Yellow Submarine bar we went to Radio bar just up the road. The toilet was truly horrific. Absolutely Trainspotting standards. But when you’ve gotta go!

The next day in Cartagena the rain absolutely arrived. Properly throwing it down. The plan was to do some exploring but after a few seconds out in the rain we were all soaked. So we took shelter in the nearest pub and pretty much just got drunk and ate for the day and night.

A collection of the wines we went through. There were a lot more than this…actually I think this is just one night.

When I told Emma we were heading to Cartagena she sent me a picture that she’d taken there on a school trip a few years before.

This is Emma’s photo on a beautiful sunny day
This was my recreation on a much much wetter day. I couldn’t do it perfectly as there were some barriers to my left preventing me getting the angle correct on the building in the background

We left Cartagena in beautiful sunshine heading for Ibiza.

Ceuta to ummmmm

Well, here

We left at the ridiculously early time of 8.30am which was quite a shock to the system after finishing drinking rum a mere five hours earlier. We made reasonable progress during the day dodging tankers and cargo ships as we cut across the shipping lanes to get back to the Spanish side of the Med.

We had to make a few course changes to avoid some of the big ships but they also made course changes to avoid us. It was all very gentlemanly except for one Russian bell end who kept screaming “Putin number one” over the VHF emergency frequency. Dick.

Once again we had our usual Dolphin accompaniment. This was a massive pod of them and they were everywhere we looked.

It was a largely uneventful day which was made all the easier by having a full crew which means there are always two on each watch. So if you want to make a cup of tea or go for a wee or just have a lie in the sun then it’s no problem. It makes the four hour shift fly by.

We did an overnight passage and Pawel and I were due on watch at 4am. So I went to bed at about 9pm and slept soundly until 3.30am. During our watch we could see the Milky Way in the inky black skies and we also saw Mars shining brightly at about 5am.

The next day started off quite mildly but the winds really got up in the afternoon.

My watch mate Pawel enjoying the waves…

We eventually made it to a relatively safe anchorage where will be sleeping for the night. The intention was to have a bit of a swim in the Mediterranean but

a) it’s still quite windy
b) it’s still pretty chilly
c) the guys in the picture below wont bugger off and I absolutely refuse to swim with shorts on

We have to be in Ibiza by Friday so there will probably be another night sail at some point. But we’re pretty much on target to make it for Ibiza for my birthday!

Gibraltar to Ceuta

Josh, Josh2 and Pawel finally made it to the boat and we managed to fix the topping lift. It wasn’t a perfect fix but it was better than using the spinnaker halyard.

We pulled out of Alcaidesa marina which is part of Spain, and drove around the corner to a marina in Gibraltar where fuel is 40% cheaper. Filled our fuel tanks and bought some beers and rum and then headed South across the Mediterranean to Africa…kinda.

Rock of Gibraltar in the background

It was a very short crossing, probably a little over two hours, but we were immediately joined by Bottlenose Dolphins and they accompanied us for quite a while. As we were crossing the water we saw a familiar sight.

It may not be the exact ship that blocked the Suez but it’s close enough.

The sun was setting as we approached Ceuta and a tanker ship was in the right place at the right time.

Ceuta is part of continental Africa in much the same way as Gibraltar is part of mainland Spain, and just as Gibraltar remains a little part of Britain, Ceuta is a little part of Spain. So we went ashore and found a fantastic little Tapas place where we had some amazing food and drank some beer and wine.

On the way back to the boat we came across the statue of Hercules.

After getting back on the boat, which was considerably easier than getting off it since the tide had risen, we all fancied a rum. So we finished the bottle of rum we brought from the Canaries, then we opened the bottle of rum we bought whilst filling up with fuel….and we finished that as well. Unfortunately I had an 8am shift and only went to bed at 3.30am with a belly full of rum. It wasn’t a pleasant start to the next day!

Gibraltar

I visited Gibraltar many years ago with Emma and the kids when we were on a cruise. Due to time constraints we never managed to make it up to the top and see the apes. On this trip I was determined to right that wrong. But first we had to try and fix the topping lift that snapped on the La Palma to Madeira leg. Michal being the lightest we sent him up the mast.

Terrifyingly high

We failed to fix the line so are still relying on the cobbled together Spinnaker Halyard but we may have another go at fixing it today. After the failed attempt we drank a little wine and made the foot crossing into Gibraltar. The Spanish authorities weren’t too keen on letting Michal and I into Gibraltar because we were travelling on British passports. We eventually made it through after showing our flight tickets out of Ibiza.

Arriving into Casemates Square in Gibraltar Matka was determined we should all have a beer so we were just about to sit at a table when I thought I heard somebody shout “Darren”. I looked around wondering if I was going crazy when I spotted Josh and Josh2 waving over. I knew they were in Gibraltar so it wasn’t a massive surprise but we weren’t due to meet until the next day so it was still a bit of a shocker. Turned out they’d just finished lunch in the exact bar we were going to get a beer. Gibraltar is a small place! This was the same place where Emma and I along with Amelia and Oliver had lunch last time we visited. Last time I was there I had the baby back ribs, so I opted for them again this time. They were equally good.

After lunch and a few beers we took the cable car to the top of the rock.

You can see our boat in this picture
Finally got to see the Apes of Gibraltar

We opted to take the cable car and walk down. We came down the Mediterranean steps which was pretty hard work. I had my walking boots on which have done hundreds of miles on my feet but I still ended up with a blister. On the way down I opted to get some pictures of the Gib flora.

We came across a few caves on the way down too

Yoshi and Michal exploring whilst I sat on my arse trying to rest my weary legs/knees/feet

A final picture of my leather satchel travelling companion that has escorted me around the world for getting close to 20 years.

Not entirely sure why I added a BW filter but there you go.

Madeira to Gibraltar

This was always going to be the big journey. About 1000nm which is 1150 miles across the Atlantic. We set off at about lunchtime and headed East. Michal and I in particular had a heavy heart due to the aforementioned alcohol ban.

Goodbye Portugal, Britain/Spain here we come

On the whole the passage was pretty uneventful. We had reasonable winds which allowed us to make progress without being covered in Atlantic spray and tossed around in bed when we tried to sleep. We even had quite a bit of sunshine.

I apologise for the amount of my flesh in this photo. Notice my replacement sunglasses – this time with a strap to hold them on.

Since the Transatlantic mission began Captain Alex has been desperately trying to catch some fish. Ideally some tuna so we can have some fresh sashimi – sadly, as I write this, we have yet to catch anything except a bit of plastic. Happy to know that we’re cleaning up the oceans.

Along the way we had a visitor who flew in and hitched a ride with us for a while. We tried to feed him some sausage but he wasn’t interested. He did have a little fetta cheese which seemed a little odd to me.

We sail in support of Ukraine.

Yeah, those are my freshly washed underpants on the left.

A couple of pictures of me, because we all know how self obsessed I am! Fortunately for all concerned I wont be posting pictures of when we stopped 270miles from land in 4000m deep waters and jumped off the boat to bathe. By this point it was about 7 days since I last showered and my hair was truly disgusting. We jumped in, clothing optional, and I washed my hair in the Atlantic.

Along the way we were privileged to experience some truly magnificent sunsets which will be a post all of it’s own soon but here’s one…

The catamaran you see in this picture is Lady Helen Africa. They contacted us via VHF since they were having problems with their AIS and couldn’t see any of the shipping nearby. Since we were about to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar [ a massively busy shipping lane ] at night – this was not cool. So they agreed to follow behind us at a distance of about 1 mile and use our AIS capability to dodge tankers, cargo ships and cruise ships. This was a cunning plan until the sun set and Michal and I were in charge of the boat. When it gets dark things tend to get difficult on a boat. Michal and I spotted a red light flashing light quite nearby and sailed past it realising it was a red flashing buoy. Up ahead there were loads more of them in a line. We then spotted a fishing boat steaming toward us flashing his massively powerful spotlight at us. We could hear some chatter on the radio but it was in the cabin and we were busy up on the cockpit dodging buoys and wondering why irate fishermen were hounding us. Predictably it turns out all these red flashing lights were of course the fishing nets. So we changed course to the North as did our catamaran tail. Then we ran into some more fishing nets and had to turn West to avoid them, which is the exact opposite the direction we wanted to go in. At this point the Lady Helen Africa came back on the radio to ask in their best French/English what the f*** we were doing. Michal responded that we were dodging fishing nets. We eventually spotted a gap between two lengths of fishing nets that would allow us to bypass them and crack on to Gibraltar. We went for it and the Frenchies followed.

As we passed through the nets and back into clear water we paid a little more attention to the radio and heard the fishing boat captain shouting at all the other ships nearby to go North and avoid his nets. We really could have done with a radio in the cockpit. At this point it was about 1am so I went to bed leaving Michal and Alex to sail us through the Straits.

Due to me being utterly confused about whether our roster was on Canary time or Spanish time and also the added uncertainty about whether my phone was on UK time, Canary time or Spanish time I managed to set my alarm two hours earlier than necessary. So instead of getting up at 7.45 for my shift I managed to get up at 5.45 – a mere 4.5 hours after I went to bed….a mere two hours after I got to sleep since my feet were absolutely freezing! I was however rewarded with a rather spectacular Mediterranean sunrise.

My first of the trip due to shift patterns and clouds!

So eventually after five days at sea, 140hrs without a single drop of white wine, tantamount to a week without a schnifter of red wine and in dog years pretty much a month of no booze whatsoever, Gibraltar hove into view.

Putting on my very best upper class British accent I contacted the Queensway Quay in Gibraltar on VHF but was told they had no space. Very disappointing that they didn’t make room for a fellow Brit but we eventually found a space in Alcaidesa Marina which is Spanish territory but is a short walk into Gibraltar. We didn’t have a berth immediately but were advised to go to the waiting quay and sort out a berth. So eventually, after five days of travelling across the Atlantic via sail and motor, trying to keep up a solid 5kts so we could make it in time to pick up the rest of our crew [ Josh, Josh2 and Pawel ] we made landfall.

After an hour or so of waiting around we were assigned a berth, we motored over, parked up and….

La Palma to Madeira

We set off from La Palma with pretty light conditions since we were still covered from the winds by the island.

Leaving La Palma

Things got pretty lumpy as soon as we were out of the lee of the island with 20 kts of wind and a large Atlantic swell.

The view from my cabin – it doesn’t really do it justice though.

Twenty knots of wind is usually quite good fun and one can make good progress in these winds – except the wind was coming from NE which was almost exactly the way we wanted to go. So it was pretty slow progress with the wind in your face and Atlantic spray covering you every few minutes. On my first shift I didn’t think I’d need my thermals. Big mistake. By the end I was cold wet and miserable.

For the first night shift I wore all my wet weather gear, thermals, hat and hood. So midnight until 4am was more bearable but I was cold and hungry as I climbed into bed.

It was supposed to be a 36hr passage but as I started my day shift the next day with 120nm to go it became obvious we would have another night shift before reaching Madeira.

The navigation system with autohelm in the cockpit.

The second day was pretty calm as we headed north but again making slow progress.

The second night shift is when things became fun. At some point a little after midnight in 25 kts winds Michal and I heard a strange noise. In the dark we couldn’t determine what it was and just assumed it was ok as the boat continued sailing well. I went to bed at about 1am and Michal continued his shift. At 3am the winds increased so the decision was made to put a reef in the mainsail. So the mainsail was lowered a little and the boom came crashing onto the cabin roof. This was definitely not supposed to happen. The strange noise we heard earlier was the boom lift line snapping and the boom was being held up by the sail. So now we either go full mainsail in heavy winds or drop the mainsail and secure the boom. We decided to drop the main. To do this we decided to start the engines and head into the wind. This was when we found that one of the engines had decided to stop working! So at about 80nm offshore we were down to the gib and a single engine. But we coped. We limped into Madeira planning to make repairs in the marina, but the marina was full so we had to anchor in the harbour. Things were not going well and with a 600nm passage to Gibraltar ahead of us the crew were not exactly over the moon.

Once in Madeira the starboard engine started working again and we rigged the spinnaker halyard as the boom lift and we were back in business.

Captain Alex at the helm.
Safely anchored in the harbour with “The World” keeping us company.
Funchal by night.

We went ashore and resupplied at the supermarket with enough provisions to keep 5 happy sailors fed for the next leg. We’re heading to Gibraltar right now with about 597nm to go and light winds predicted. With good winds we’d expect the journey to take 3 days but I think it will be more like 6 or 7 nights….at sea…with no alcohol allowed whilst at sea…with 4 hour night shifts. On one hand the light winds mean it should be a more comfortable journey, but on the other hand not a drop of red or white wine will pass my lips for the best part of a week. This is not what I signed up for!

Farewell Funchal, Gibraltar here we come.

We’ve arranged to pick up Josh, Josh2 and Pawel in Gibraltar so the parties will get better but the sleeping arrangements will change. I have to leave my double cabin and shack up with Michal – which will be cosy.

La Palma

We had a whole day on land in La Palma so rented a car and did a little exploring.

The ittle Fiat Panda that took a battering transporting 5 reasonably sized men around
The view of Tazacorte marina. You can just about make out our yacht
Some flora of the Canaries
Michal in front of some caves
We had to hike down a path to get to this point. Annoyingly the tourism fella didn’t tell us we could swim here!
Tazacorte by night
Leaving La Palma

As I write this we are motoring away from La Palma heading for Madeira. The winds will be getting up soon and we should be in Madeira in about 36 hours. This will be our first night passage of this voyage but the winds are predicted to drop to about 12 knots around midnight so hopefully it shouldn’t be too bad.

La Gomera to La Palma

From the moment we left La Gomera it got pretty bumpy. 20-25knt winds and quite a large Atlantic swell. It didn’t get any better. The winds increased past 26 knots so we put a reef in the mainsail. Then they passed 31 knots and we reduced the gib to 70%. Then they started heading for about 36 knots and the spray was covering us all in sea water and salt. As we approached the East of La Palma we entered the “acceleration zone” and the winds were passing 40 knots.

On the bright side

a) We made it

and

b) A pod of Dolphins kept us company again.

On the not so bright side my sunglasses are now at the bottom of the Atlantic after being blown from my head.

As we rounded the Southern tip of La Palma it was like somebody switched off the wind machine. In a matter of 100m it went from crazy strong winds to absolutely nothing. We had to put the engines on!

This was after rounding the tip of La Palma. I didn’t dare get my phone out during the heavy winds

After motoring up the West of La Palma we eventually made harbour and had a much needed drink

The good ship Eskimo

Sailing : Tenerife to La Gomera

I arrived in Tenerife on Saturday and met Michal, Tomek and Matka at the airport.

We took a taxi over to the marina and loaded the supplies onto our 40ft Catamaran “Eskimo”. After a full day of travelling an early night was definitely needed.

Next morning, we set sail for La Gomera. Pretty blustery when we first set off but things settled down. Unbelievably we had an escort from a pod of Dolphins on the first leg of our journey.

We finally arrived at La Gomera at about 8pm which was about 8hrs of sailing.

This is where we anchored for the night
This is the view to the nearest beach

An excellent first day on the adventure and one of the great moments [ apart from the Dolphins of course ] was seating eating a rack of ribs in the middle of the Atlantic.