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.
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.
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
A final picture of my leather satchel travelling companion that has escorted me around the world for getting close to 20 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
We set off from La Palma with pretty light conditions since we were still covered from the winds by the island.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
We had a whole day on land in La Palma so rented a car and did a little exploring.
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.
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
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!
After motoring up the West of La Palma we eventually made harbour and had a much needed drink
I seem to start far too many blog posts with something along the lines of “Due to the ongoing extension” but…due to the ongoing extension I had Neil around doing some groundwork and since he kinda ran out of stuff to do, and I kinda had a load of stone tucked around the back of my office we asked Neil to extend our sail shade area. Partly because we lost our barbecue area due to the extension and partly because the grassy area near the sailshade was an absolute bugger to cut with my ride-on mower.
So now we have a much bigger sail shade space replete with barbecue area and no need to mow it.
Again…as part of the extension work we had to move the power supply for my poo-pump from the house to the garage. Aaron and I ran a bit of armoured cable from the garage and drilled through into the pumping chamber and hooked it up. This chamber is supposed to be relatively clean as the “solids” remain in the first chamber and the liquid transfers into the pumping chamber. However, in reality it’s well minging. It also didn’t help that as we were doing a final test of the system that I caught the pipe that transfers the waste to the soakaway and it fell off. The jubilee clip that had been holding it in place had corroded. So off we went to buy some new jubilee clips and then both of us had our heads down the hole fixing a new one on…whilst Emma sat inside with her friends eating sandwiches and cake. Life just isn’t fair.
As part of the extension work my pristinely beautiful gravel drive was covered in tonnes of earth. I was pretty pissed off with this needless to say. Eventually the soil was moved and was put into the planters with the remainder going into a skip. But it still left crap all over my gravel.
So I took some more of the wood from Oliver’s bed and created a frame into which I inserted some left over chicken wire out of my shed. Now I shovel the dirty gravel onto the frame supported by a wheelbarrow. Leave it for a few days for the soil to dry. Give it a bit of a shake and the soil drops into my wheelbarrow and the clean(er) soil goes into my borders. It’s not perfect, but it’s better.