It felt good to be off and getting closer to Gibraltar - we have a date with Ellen's parents there, flights and hotels have been booked and there's a nagging concern that the wind is going to conspire against us, meaning we won't make it in time. We had four good nights in Lagos, shared with Mark and Nat and it was sad to say goodbye knowing we might not see them for another few months. We've both installed high-frequency single-side band radios in our boats which are supposed to be able to let you talk to other boats over 1000s of miles, if the atmospheric conditions are suitable. The installation is fairly complex, involving insulating the back stay (the back wire that holds the mast up), installing the set and tuning unit and running a copper ground strip from a copper plate on the underside of the hull back to the tuner unit and the set itself. There's plenty of advice available, often conflicting, but it seems the only way to tell if your installation is any good is to manage to talk to someone across an ocean. Both of us had been having success receiving and sending emails from a transmitter in Belgium, and occassional Nova Scotia, but struggled to talk to each other across the Biscay. Finally we found a clear frequency and managed a 15min conversation, Over all of 40 miles - progress.
We left Lagos at 13.00 with a smooth sea and less then 5knots of wind from the west. We ghosted along for an hour, until the wind completely disappeared and we gave in and fired up the engine. Over the next 5 hours the wind teased us only to vanish completely as soon as we'd try sailing. However by 11.30 a head-wind had picked up, so we tacked through the night with George II (our windvane self steering), holding a great course for us and acting as the 3rd crew member while we alternately slept. By the morning the wind had backed to the north-east and picked up to a decent 15knots so we could shape a course directly for Cadiz. By this time Kika's deck was getting a frequent wash-down as we pounded into the sea - Kika seems to enjoy it and Ellen's anti-seasickness drugs worked well, even to the extent of extending her watch by 0.5 hour to allow me extra time asleep (makes up for waking me up in the middle of the night to help identify whether we were in danger of colliding with passing ships).
Not only are we planning to met Ellen's parents in Gibraltar, but we've got a long list of boat jobs we're hoping to complete. The main ones are fabricating a stainless-steel arch for the back of the boat to support the solar panel, getting some longer poles for our dual head-sail rig, and fitting a sun-awning - both important for the atlantic crossing. The autumnal feel of northern Spain has been replaced by a scorching mid-day sun.