Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Return to Falmouth

We left Falmouth on 20th August 2005 a little apprehensive about what Biscay would have in store for us and still trying to persuade the wind-vane to hold a straight course. I arrived back on 8th August 2009 having almost mastered the wind-vane, though my respect for the ocean remains undiminished.

We almost had an uneventful sail back from the Scillies. I caught a small mackerel which seemed to emphasize the end (or temporary break) from my tuna catching, ocean sailing days. We were all set to arrive earlier than advertised when I steered directly over a fishing buoy. We eventually freed ourselves by cutting and rejoining the line, though a couple of metres remained caught in the vicinity of the propeller. I hoped the rope cutter on the propeller shaft might clear the final strands - instead the propeller locked solid, stalling the engine. Time to anchor in calmer waters and take a look. After a quarter of an hour, hacking at the rope, the propeller reemerged and I tried bring some feeling back to my extremities with the help of a warm shower.

I was still shivering as we entered Falmouth harbour, though quickly memories of the chilly Cornish waters vanished as we spied Will, Alyssa and Grace waving frantically from a small motor boat. We were then propelled by a whirl of reunions with friends and family, champagne corks popping, joining in the Falmouth week festivities and of course not needing the excuse of karaoke to perform our rendition of "home lovin' man" to the crowd in the Chain Locker.
I've just about recovered and despite the shock of the temperature (is it really summer?), it's great to be back. Falmouth is buzzing - my arrival coinciding with Falmouth week.
It's wonderful to watch the seamanship as the engineless working boats appear to sail effortlessly on to quays and on and off buoys. Falmouth feels like an international sailing cross-roads with northern European boats preparing to head south at the start of exciting adventures and slightly more weather beaten boats arriving with sun-bleached crews high on the thrill of landfall and full of tales of warmer waters.
I'm planning to stay in the harbour for a couple of weeks, sadly preparing Kika for sale and allowing myself to slowly adjust to a new land-based reality. It's been an incredible four years and I've really enjoyed the discipline of keeping the blog - thanks for the positive comments through the years. Now though it's back to reality and trying to fix the diesel heater to bring some warmth into the cabin.. THE END (for now...)

Anchorage in Falmouth: N50deg 09.2' W005deg 03.7'
Mobile: +44 (0)7759 819325

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Scilly

It's been a great couple of days with clearer skies and warmer weather; a welcome break from the unremitting grey skies that tracked our progress northwards. The other treat has been the increasing wildlife, with spectacular whale and dolphin visits coinciding with our crossing of the continental shelf. After seeing virtually no shipping for the first eight days, ship-spotting excitement remained up-to our arrival in Scilly. Other signs of life included VHF channel 16 bursting into life, picking up Radio 4 LW 2 days from Scilly and a sure sign we were approaching civilisation when 10 miles out our phones emerged from hibernation.

It was always going to be a race to arrive in Scilly before sunset. In the end we lost by three hours, but with the reassurance of the Bishop's Rock lighthouse and timely help from the stunning full moon we edged past the surf breaking on the rocks guarding the channel between Tresco and Bryher, dropping anchor a little after midnight.It finally felt like summer today, perfect weather for show-casing the best of Scillys. I've been questioning my sanity on the trip north as we've had to add thermal layer after layer to stop ourselves from freezing at night - I'm certainly going to miss gazing at the stars in shorts and tee-shirt (or less), but today, at times, the Scillys almost felt on a par with some of the best Pacific atols.

Matt's been very successful at discovering the more "cheesey" corner of my iPod music collection, with "Home Loving Man" becoming a bit of a theme for the voyage from the Azores. The chorus goes:

I'm going to miss the sand in my hair,
The roll of the tide and the salt in the air.
Deep inside it's true -
I'm a home lovin' man,
Comin' on home to you.

I'm going to miss the wind in my eyes,
The shimmerin' light when the seagull flies
And thought I've travelled far
I'm a home loving man,
Home is where you are.

I just hope for the sake of the locals it's not karaoke night in Falmouth on Saturday...

Anchorage between Tresco & Bryer: N49deg 57.7' W006deg 21.0'
Anchorage in St Helen's Pool: N49deg58.0' W006deg19.4'

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Guest Blog

After reading so many of Nick's and various crew's postings (and generally feeling pretty envious afterwards) it feels strange to be making my own contribution to his and Kika's story. We have been at sea since the 27th and the time has passed very comfortably. Nick is so familiar with Kika and everything appears to be effortless for him. He is so quick around the decks whilst I still feel I am just finding my sea legs. He is brilliant in the galley and Kika's kitchen rivals any West End restaurant. We have caught a couple of tuna and sashimi and seared tuna has featured on the menu as has tortilla and jambon serrano, Nick is sleeping with a whole leg of Spanish ham. I will say no more about that. In the morning fresh fruit and home made yoghurt whilst looking at a forlorn trotter poking out from under the table.

This is by far the longest I have been a sea. At times it has felt incredibly remote. We went for several days without seeing a sign of any other human life at all. It was a relief to see a satellite one night as a reminder that life was still out there somewhere. It is like sailing in the middle of a self contained disc of ocean with nothing disturbing it. The sun rises, tracks across the sky and sets, the moon comes up the stars shine and we carry on. We see weather coming hours before it reaches us and the sea is either deep blue or grey depending on the sky. It is one of the great things about sailing - this connection with the passing of natural time rather than the frantic forced pace of everyday life.
We have seen some great things. Today we had a visit from dolphins and they played around the boat for about ten minutes. Later we saw our first close up whales, a school of we believe pilot whales about ten in all, some very large 3-4 metres long, surfing towards us through the waves and playing around us for about ten minutes. I am afraid I got rather over excited, but it was lovely to see them. Now we are closer to land there are more birds, young gannets, fulmars as well as the ever present and wonderfully aerobatic shearwaters and petrels.

We have 150 miles to go to the Scillies and then 60 to Falmouth. We are already planning celebrations in the Scillies, beer for Nick and a pasty for me. It has been great to see Nick again and an honour to share a leg of his journey (and his jambon). It will be great having him back in England. But on those cold Winter nights won't we miss logging on to Kika Sailing and reading about warmer places and Nick's adventures at sea. Thanks for sharing it with us and thanks for a great couple of weeks. Mattxx
Position at 12.15 on the 4th August N48 39' W10 41'
Daily run 127 miles distance to Scillies 181

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tuna at sunrise

Yesterday our squid lure was out all day without a single bite. This morning without expecting much I let the line out at dawn. Less than a minute later the line went taut and few minutes after that I'd landed another small tuna. What a great way to start the morning. We both managed some sleep last night and though the conditions continued overcast and rough we were both in high spirits - boosted through the day by a whale sighting and dolphin visit.
The race is on to try to arrive in the Scilly Isles before nightfall on Wednesday evening. It's going to be tight. Despite careering along during the day, our speed dropped overnight and we've only once on this trip made more than 130 miles a day. Still it looks like the strong southerly/south-westerly winds will remain so figures crossed.

Position @ 12:00, 3/8/09: N47deg33' W13deg 23'
Distance to Scilly: 308
Daily run: 121

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Grey Atlantic day

If we were camping we'd have peered out of the tent at the enveloping gloom and decided to stay put for the day. On a boat it's not much different; we read, listened to music, tried to find the world service on short-wave, slept, but rarely ventured beyond the confines of the spray hood. The mixture of cabin fever and lack of sleep from another very roly night isn't a great combination.

Even Matt stopped cheerfully predicting sunshine after the current almost non-stop "clearing" shower. Still we're making progress, today marked by reaching the southern extent of the UK shipping forecast regions.

Position @ 12:00, 2/8/09: N46deg19' W15deg 45'
Distance to Scilly: 429
Daily run: 126

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Calm before the wind

Another squally night beating into the wind and bouncing over the waves, which thankfully moderated into a fantastic beam reach over a moderate sea with a clear sky. It's been one of the most enjoyable sailing days since we left the Azores. Matt's spotted lots of whales this morning - mainly in the form of a distant spout, but also an occasional glimpse of a dorsal fin. Not so many shear waters today though.

We finished the last of the tuna for lunch, and with no bites on the lure we've had to resort to our remaining stores. Matt dished up a fabulous white bean and chorizo stew. It's definitely stew weather - there's a real bitterness in the wind.

We're expecting a windy night and day tomorrow, so we're reefed down again, prepared for another roly night. As it looks as though we've a couple of days in hand to meet our planned Falmouth arrival date of the 8th August we're planning to stop first in the Scillys for a few days before making the final 60 miles to Falmouth for the 8th August.

Position @ 12:00, 1/7/09: N44deg 34' W17deg 38'
Distance to Falmouth: 607
Daily run: 121

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wildlife in the wild ocean

It's been a wild night. Neither Matt or myself managed any sleep as a heavily reefed Kika crashed, rolled and wove her way downwind through a large sea. Thankfully at sunrise the wind moderated and veered to the west, allowing us to grab a couple of hours rest and emerge later to find a calmer sea and warming sun.

I've found a bag of yoghurt powder I didn't know I had, hidden under the spare pasta, allowing us to treat ourselves to yoghurt with fresh fruit for breakfast.
The morning continued improving when the line shot out and I finally I managed to land a small tuna, providing sashimi followed by tuna steaks for lunch and poisson cru for dinner. What a treat.

We passed over King's Trough today with the chart showing a maximum depth of 6324m - the maximum charted depth I can see on my NW Atlantic chart. It's probably coincidental but we've seen much more wildlife today. Lots of shearwaters patrolling the ocean and periodically circling the boat especially if they notice any lures out, then we have an occasional visit from stormy petrels darting close to the surface of the waves. And finally we've seen our first whales of the trip - just the spouts but unmistakable - hopefully if the sea ever calms down we'll be able to see more than just water plumes.

Currently we're beating into a rough sea. It's not the most pleasant sailing occasionally there'll be a loud crash as a wave breaks on the hull, followed by a couple of seconds delay before the spray immerses the boat.

Position @ 12:00, 31/7/09: N43deg 11' W19deg 41'
Distance to Falmouth: 728
Daily run: 135

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ship in the night

This evening we caught a glimpse of the lights of another boat off to the south. The first humans to enter the disc defined by our horizon since we cleared the Azores - it almost feels like an imposition. It's a very empty ocean out here.
Fishing has been the focus for the day; we spent the morning reworking the lures and deploying three lines over the stern. It's not low maintenance fishing though, as the shearwaters dive on the lures, requiring hasty retraction to avoid an inadvertentbird snag. In the afternoon it looked as though our efforts would be rewarded when one of the lines started clicking out. Unfortunately I lost the fish - down to rigging failure. Still there's hope that we might catch something before we resort to the channel mackerel line.

While searching for some missing nectarines I dropped a box of eggs, resulting in an emergency lunch time tortilla - very tasty. The mystery of the missing nectarines remains....

It's much colder than I would have expected - hard to believe we're at the same latitude as the Portrugese/Spanish border. I've had to exchange my shorts for thermals - the first time since I left New Zealand.

Position @ 12:00, 30/7/09: N41deg 44' W22deg 00'
Distance to Falmouth: 863
Daily run: 118

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Falmouth bound

We left Ponta Delgada at 5pm on Monday. Checking out of the Azores with our next port specified as Falmouth - felt more momentous and final than the usual bureaucratic exit procedure.

Though exciting to head-off with the UK as the next destination, my enthusiasm was tempered by the weather charts which showed a succession of lows crossing the north Atlantic indicating "variable" winds for the 1200 miles passage home.

I'd promised Matt whale and dolphin sightings and a selection of freshly caught fish. The whale sighting didn't seem too much of a stretch with the daily whale watching boats reporting sightings of a variety of cetaceans including sperm whales. It looked as though I'd be able to keep my promise when a school of dolphins joined us as we rounded the western end of Sao Miguel. Since then despite Matt's dedicated scanning of the horizon not a single spout has been spotted. The fishing is as bad, we've two lines deployed without a bite, though our lures look enticing to the storm petrels requiring us to rapidly bring them in when one shows a more than healthy interest.

As ever food is a prime concern. Matt raised the cooking game with roast chicken on the first night, though he had to hand-over responsibility to the sous-chef when the sloppy motion meant he excused himself from the galley and reverted to whale spotting. Today in the absence of fresh sea-food we've started on cured leg of ham I procured in Spain. We're not going to starve - as usual it's a race to eat the fresh fruit and veg before it goes off - though it would be great to have at least one final fresh fish...

Position @ 12:00 29/7/09: N 40deg 30' W24deg 00'
Distance to Falmouth: 981

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sao Miguel

I feel my Azorian landfall entry might have created the wrong impression about my visit to the islands - my week long stay in the islands has felt far too short; I've had a great time amongst the wonderfully, warm, friendly Azorians - but more of that later.

I left Santa Maria on the evening of my arrival. I'd intended to stay another day, and though conditions weren't ideal to leave immediately - rough seas, with a strong wind to beat into - the forecast predicted strengthening winds veering to the north in the following days. So despite having enjoyed some celebratory glasses of wine, it was time to head off into the squally evening. I optimistically hoped that the worst of the violent squalls sweeping through the anchorage would disappear as I cleared the high cliffs of the islands. However even an hour out with three reefs in the main each squall would pin Kika on her side. As I lay on the cockpit floor feeling a mixture of mild seasickness mixed with a throbbing alcohol induced headache, I pinned my hopes on the predicted moderation in the wind in the early hours. We seemed to spend most of the night crashing over the waves, but eventually the weather conformed to the prediction and allowed me to grab a little sleep.

Despite being in the EU, the Azores keep their entry formalities, with visits required to customs, immigration and port police - fortunately all in adjacent offices within the same building. There weren't any anchoring options close to Ponta Delgada so I opted to treat myself to a berth in the reasonably priced marina awaiting Matt's arrival at the weekend.

After so long amongst Mediterranean charter boats it was great to be surrounded by boats either returning from long voyages or about to set off on their adventures, resulting in a fantastically convivial time. Matt arrived on Saturday evening - it still seems incredible when plans hatched weeks or months in advance come together. With Matt onboard we were all set for the final leg to the UK, however first I was keen to escape the confines of the mosaicly paved Ponta Delgada and explore the island. Inevitably Sunday was the wettest day so far, and despite Matt's optimistic pronouncements that each approaching cloud would yield a "clearing shower" to be followed by clear skies, the scenic viewing places revealed little beyond the bounding wall. However even the heaviest of downpours couldn't prevent us from marvelling at the colourful verges lined with hydrangeas and bougainvillea. After multiple missed turns we eventually succeeded in winding our way up and into the caldera containing the spectacular Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde (blue and green lakes). Matt set a cracking pace as we explored the shore-line of Lagoa Verde, which really appeared green when the sun made a belated welcome appearance. With our appetites stimulated we set off in search of food, eventually arriving at a a small bar in Varzea on the west coast. We ordered a selection of mystery stews from tubs behind the bar and set about satisfying our hunger. One stew contained beans and meat which we quickly demolished, however the other proved to be chicken neck, heart and liver stew. Matt gamely worked his way through the bowl - however I decided I was suddenly feeling rather full.

It was festival day in Varzea. Flowers were laid along the roads in the village, two brass bands arrived, the villagers appeared in their "Sunday best", the firework man risked his right arm setting off large loud rocket bangers and eventually the local priest emerged from the church heralding the start of the procession. Villagers carrying a variety of religious icons set off, led by the bands, to process around the village on the recently laid carpet of flowers. After the modern infrastructure of Ponta Delgada, it felt as though we'd been transported to a film set of a period drama. It really would have been great to stay longer and experience more of the Azores...

21/7/2009: Marina, Ponta Delgada: N 37deg 44.3' W025deg

Monday, July 20, 2009

Landfall in Santa Maria

Another day, another plan. A slip of a new moon rose just before dawn and illuminated what I'd feared, the waves were building from the rising head-wind and we were making tortuously slow headway west. I'm sure the Hiscocks or other hardened sailors of a previous generation would have hove-to or tacked towards the islands thinking nothing of another night at sea. I had other plans - I could see the outline of Santa Maria, I'd plenty of diesel in the tank and I'd serviced the engine in Gibraltar so I motored the last 30 miles. Still progress was slow, I considered changing destination again and heading off to Sao Miguel as at least I'd have a better angle on the wind, but eventually I decided on an anchorage on the north-east end of Santa Maria which looked perfect for strong westerly winds and saved me 7 miles over yesterday's planned landfall of Vila do Porto.

As I closed on Santa Maria I was mobbed by sea-birds. It felt like they'd mistaken me for a fishing boat - could I really smell that bad? Perhaps I've spent too long recently in the Greek islands and have begun expecting all islands to be similarly diminutive, so I was impressed with the size and scale of Santa Maria especially as it's one of the smaller islands in the Azores. Most of the island appears to rise vertically directly from the sea becoming forbidding shear cliffs above the water. As I approached I spied a couple of settlements clinging to a slightly less vertiginous slope, though the way the exit roads wind their way up into the interior quickly put an end to any idea of exploring by bicycle.

The most startling sights in the anchorage, are the gravity defying terraces surrounding the bay. Apparently they are put to use as vineyards producing a locally famous wine. The guide warned that a lot of the houses are holiday homes and although not expecting to be mobbed by Pacific islanders in dug-out canoes, I didn't find Sao Lourenco to be the social place where I'd hoped to make landfall.

Admittedly I only ventured ashore briefly between rain showers and my Portuguese is extremely limited, so not ideal conditions. Still the anchorage is well sheltered from the swell, although frequent squalls whistle down from the cliffs - at least the wind-generator is earning its keep. I should have a restful night then if the weather allows, I'll shift to Sao Migel tomorrow.

13:30GMT, 20/7/2009: Baia de Sao Lourenco, Azores: N36deg 59.2' W25deg 03.0'

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So near and yet so far

After the last few overcast days, today's been a real treat; warm and sunny over a calm sea. After an uncomfortable start, I've settled into the passage and it now feels like it'll be a shame to arrive. It's also hard to believe that the whole trip will be over in a couple of weeks.

I've changed destination. I was heading for Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, but the forecast indicated I'd have strong head winds for the final day, so I've altered course slightly to Vila do Porto, Santa Maria. I save 20 miles from this morning's position and it's 60 miles south which should give me a little more time before the strongest head-winds arrive. The little information I have on Santa Maria sounds appealing:

"Santa Maria is often called 'The Island of the Sun' as it tends to be warm and dry and has many fine sand beaches. The Island's traditional houses have white chimneys and blue bars which are a heritage of the first settlers here from Southern Portugal. The landscape is either dry and limestoned or luxuriant with vineyards. It is the oldest Azorean Island as well as the only one resting on the African geological plate. Famous for its handicrafts and pastry!"

Particularly interested in the mention of luxuriant vineyards and pastries.

The new plan is to spend a couple of days in Santa Maria before heading north in time to meet Matt in Sao Miguel on Saturday.

As I'm keen to arrive before the onset of the head-winds, I've been making judicious use of the engine. It was on for a couple of hours this morning - long enough to warm-up the water tank so I spoilt myself to two hot showers. Amazing what a shower can do - I became a different person - one who actually enjoys cleaning. In the course of the major spring-clean I undertook, I discovered that a couple of cans in my store of cheap Spanish beer had burst. The cans share a locker with a large sack of Indonesian flour and bag of Thai rice. What a mess - I've dried everything out as well as I can but there remains a tide mark on sacks of flour and rice.

Position @ 13:20 GMT 19/7/09: N37deg08' W22deg41'
Distance to go: 119
Daily run: 139

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

Over time I've become familiar with the creaks, rattles and bangs generated by Kika as she makes her way across the ocean. However last night each time I was dozing off, I'd be woken by a irregular bang - a sound outside the familiar repertoire. I'd turn over and try to ignore it, hoping it would disappear, but fearing it wouldn't until eventually I'd be wide awake and forced to search it out.

I targeted the usual suspects; cockpit table, bottles of various oils, soft wooden bung in the engine compartment. Each time I thought I'd solved the problem only for it to reoccur when I was on the verge of sleep. Eventually I was exhausted enough to doze off regardless, though it didn't make for the most restful of nights. At daybreak I was in the cockpit checking all's well and saw the bucket on its side rolling freely and occasionally ramping into the side above my berth. Mystery solved, though I nearly threw the offending bucket overboard in frustration.

The weather definitely has a north Atlantic feel to it - there's a chill in the north wind and the sky has been generally overcast for the last few days. I fear the days of fast, effortless sailing, might end tomorrow. The forecast is showing the low to the north of the Azores starting to affect the wind tomorrow then on Monday which should be my landfall day, it looks like I'll have headwinds. I'm heading a little south of my rhumb line to try to ensure I can still sail even if the wind shifts to the west. Time will tell....

Position @ 13:00 GMT 18/7/09: N36deg58' W20deg01'
Distance to Azores: 273
Daily run: 157

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fast and furious towards the Azores

It was with much anticipation that I waited until midday to calculate the daily run. We've been careering along for 24 hours and I was hopeful we'd make up for yesterday's miserable 84 miles. I choose not to peak in advance so that it would be a surprise. The result - 154 miles. What a difference a day and some favourable wind makes. Though Kika has felt a little over-pressed at times especially during the night, but through lethargy and not fancying a drenching in the dark, we've remained under full sail throughout the squalls.

The favourable wind is from the NE making for a relatively comfortable fast reach to the Azores. Unfortunately it looks like there's a low forming over the next few days to the north of the Azores which will disrupt the NE flow. Hence I'm going all out to make the most of the current conditions (though I was going at full speed before I saw the forecast). It's exhilarating sailing at 6.5-8 knots though somewhat bouncy.

The wind-steering has been doing a great job, it's been working hard; one of the steering lines chafed through with all the activity. Once I fixed the line I gave it a generous helping of oil - still much more reliable than the electronic pilot.
The wind's calmed down a little this evening so I'm looking forward to a more restful night.

Position @ 13:00 GMT 17/7/09: N36deg 30' W16deg49'
Distance to Azores: 430
Daily run 154

Thursday, July 16, 2009

China rules the waves?

I feel a little like a hapless spokesman announcing poor quarterly results: "A disappointing quarter but we're confident we'll be back on track soon...". So it is with the last 24 hours' progress; a mere 84 miles to show for my efforts. The wind remained weak for most of the day and when it finally increased overnight it backed so despite being close-hauled I made more progress SW toward Madeira than the Azores.

The outlook's improved today with the wind veering northwards and increasing; I'm once again able to lay a course for the Azores at a reasonable speed, though the waves have started to build again, which tempers progress. It should be straightforward sailing from now on, I've passed all sea-mount obstacles and now just have 500+ miles of clear Atlantic between me and my landfall. The exciting event today was catching my first fish for months. A reasonable sized tuna. Most of it's disappeared already as steaks and "poisson cru" - what a treat.

I'm missing not having a radio net, I've been trying to pick up the BBC World Service, but the information I have is that they've stopped shortwave transmission to Europe, so am having to rely on broadcasts intended for the Middle East and Africa. Not ideal; as I head further west the signal becomes weaker. Today I gave up and went in search of any English language broadcasts. The best I could come up with was English language service of Radio China International, broadcasting "live from Beijing". Sign of the times?

13:00 GMT, 16/07/09: N35deg 30' W13deg 51'
Distance to Azores 584
Daily run: 84.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Restful, but slow

It's been a much easier, though slower 24 hours, the swell has become a gentle undulation from the repeated cliffs I dropped off in the first few days. It feels like I've escaped coastal effects and am slowly settling into the rhythm of life at sea. After the abundant traffic around the Straits of Gibraltar it's amazing how few boats there are out here. I might see a couple a day if I'm lucky. That said it's not completely desolate, I had to alter course to avoided the Gettysburg Seamount where the depth changes from 4500m - 50m in 20 miles and no doubt creates a nasty sea in its vicinity. To the south of the seamount were plenty of birds - I guess it was good fishing, though I actually took in the line, not wanting to hook a bird, so still no fresh fish onboard.

After far too much motoring in the windless Mediterranean, it's great to be sailing again, even if I'm not currently setting any speed records. I've full main and genoa up again, though most of the today I've been making under 5 knots.

The route from Gibraltar to the Azores is one of the few times I've seen a difference between the rhumb line course and the great circle course; 990 miles vs 980 miles. OK not hugely significant, though the course looks quite different when plotted on the chart. Explanation: a great circle course is the shortest distance between any two points; a rhumb line is a straight line on a mercator projection chart between any two points. It only really becomes significant at high latitudes. For example when travelling between London and New York. As I'm having to sail where the wind allows, this is all purely academic.

Position @ 13:15 GMT: N36deg18' W11deg50'
Distance to the Azores: 668
Daily run: 97

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

994 miles to the Azores

I left Gibraltar on the morning of 11th July at 9.30am in time to catch the west flowing tide in the Gibraltar Strait. However once in the Strait, it was clear the tide wasn't as expected; I was making just over 3 knots across the ground with a 2 knots current against me. Had I lost the ability to read a tide timetable after so long in the tropics? I rechecked, no obvious mistakes - I'd even taken the two hour difference between GMT and local time into consideration. There wasn't much wind, so the water in the Strait clearly showed up disturbances caused by the current.

I noticed a significant difference in the wave pattern half a mile inshore so changed course towards it. The difference was amazing, I'd reached an inshore counter-current with my speed shooting up from 3 to 7 knots. However the Straits weren't going to let me go so easily; just as I was relaxing and enjoying the sights speeding passed, a thick fog descended. Good job I'd had a night to recover from the previous night's excesses, I needed to be fully alert. I rushed up and down the companionway trying to be in two places at once; matching the radar display with the chart, checking the radar image for boats ahead and peering through the fog to make sure I wasn't heading towards any fishing markers.

After nearly an hour in the gloom the fog vanished and I had a clear view of the wind generators above Tarifa - allegedly one of the windiest places in Europe, though not today. However the wind slowly picked up from the east and by afternoon I was speeding out of the Mediterranean on a run under full sail, accompanied by schools of dolphins.

With the Gibraltar Strait disappearing in my wake I thought I'd left the worst behind me. However as night fell; a confused sea built and the wind vanished, I tried to sail with the little wind there was, but decided it would be best to motor west and attempt to clear the steady stream of shipping heading for and leaving the Mediterranean. It made for a sleepless night trying to keep a good watch for constant flow of shipping around me.

Dawn brought a return of the wind, but unfortunately from the WNW. I sheeted in the sails and set the best course I could - SW. Although not my intended course for the Azores, heading slightly south seemed to clear me from the majority of the shipping and I could at last grab some sleep.

Throughout the day the wind and sea built, and though Kika was well-reefed we still sped along, crashing over and through the mounting sea. Sailing like this isn't restful - there are incredible bangs and crashes as we fall off a wave or a wave breaks over the boat. Even though I've learnt over the last four years that Kika can easily cope with such conditions, it's not easy to relax. Fortunately the forecast indicated that the wind would ease around midnight and sure enough, today bought a much welcome easing and veering to the NNW. The sea is still lumpy but it too is slowly calming down and after a difficult start I'm looking forward to an easier passage ahead.

Position @ 13:00 GMT, 14th July: N35deg38' W9deg53'
Distance to the Azores: 765

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Circumnavigating and Gibraltar

At 1am on 10th July, I dropped anchor in Gibraltar in more or less the same place we'd stayed nearly four years before, and thus completed my circumnavigation. The approach to Gibraltar had been taxing so my immediate celebration was a peaceful night's sleep.

I had mixed feelings about returning to Gibraltar. On the outward trip we'd made a significant detour to visit and felt that it hadn't lived up to our expectation. This time it was en-route so I was prepared to give "the rock" another chance.
As I approached Gibraltar the shipping density increased significantly with ships from all directions joining the great flow through the Strait and constantly surprising me when what I'd previously dismissed as a light on shore, proved to be moving rapidly in my direction. My last sunset in the Mediterranean was spectacular though with "the rock" silhouetted by the fiery setting sun and a large school of dolphins accompanying me for a farewell swim-past.

The following morning, I raised my anchor and I headed for where I remembered the customs building had been located. However I arrived at the fuel docks without spotting it. The fuel dock attendant, said that check-in was now only possible in the marinas. OK, no problem, I called the nearest marina on the VHF. 'If I hadn't booked in advance, they didn't have any spaces.' 'But could they check me in, so I could anchor legally'. 'No, they couldn't do that as anchoring was now prohibited in Gibraltar'. What a welcome. I could see there were places I could stay in their precious marina, but I wasn't going to plead, so motored out of Gibraltar and across the border to La Linea.

Why bother with Gibraltar when the anchorage in La Linea was reasonably protected, had good holding and contained about 10 other cruising yachts? My excitement increased as I recognised one of the boats. It was Nomad Life who'd stayed with me on the dock in Whangarei. Once anchored I "dinghied" over. Graham was back in the UK for a week, but Judy would be happy to help me celebrate my circumnavigation and got me off to a flying start with information about the nearest supermarkets, Internet cafes, where to leave the dinghy and how to cross the border. With my folding bike I headed off to the chandlers of Gibraltar and the markets of La Linea.

"Little Britain" as Judy had christened Gibraltar, was much as I'd remembered. To me it felt fake and gaudy, a parody of Britain in the sun, with theme park attractions making a passing reference to its strategic historical role. Apart from the helpful chandlery staff at Shepherds there was nothing to entice me to cross the border.
We headed into La Linea that evening for a celebratory tour of tapas bars. What a contrast. Great food, friendly people, a lively family atmosphere, they'd even organised a brass band in the town square to help with my celebrations.

The security guard at the small club where I left the dinghy sympathised the following day with my "dolor de mi cabeza". I struggled that afternoon, with my head-throbbing, to service the engine in preparation for my departure. Not helped when I belatedly discovered I was missing a water-pump gasket. I finally completed the job when I fabricated a replacement from a corner of my "Approaches to Suez" chart.
Thanks to all those who replied to my self-congratulatory email, apologies to those I haven't responded to - I'll look forward to checking my inbox in the Azores. To answer a few of the questions that came up:

* I've so far escaped being dowsed in tar and rolled in feathers.
* Francois's ancestral navy rulebook, now allows me to spit and pee upwind - though does the rule book mention what the consequences will be?
* In the absence of other crewing offers, unfortunately I ran out of time to check availability with the Gibraltar apes.

Anchorage in La Linea, 10th July: N36deg 09.7' W05 21.7'

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Slow progress towards Gibraltar

One week there's too much wind, the next there's not a breath and now the wind has returned but from the wrong direction.

I left Cartagena early afternoon - later than intended after confusion with the "automatic" diesel pump; it took the marina staff three attempts to fix the pump before it would relinquish some of its fuel store.

Once full of fuel, water and food, I headed south and just before midnight anchored off a roly beach for the night. The following morning the forecast reported strong SW/W wind expected soon. I headed off before the wind whipped up the sea and arrived in good time to an anchorage off the headland of Cabo de Gata. The anchorage was so good it was almost as though it was designed to shelter those waiting to head west. As the wind shrieked through the anchorage I was thankful I suppressed my bravado and didn't try to press on to Gibraltar. We had trouble reaching Gibraltar almost 4 years ago; then we were heading east and the wind was typically blowing strongly from the east.

The next day's forecast again reported strong westerly winds but easing the following day. I stayed put and worked on the autopilot - it might just be fully functional by the time I make it back to the UK.

This morning I set off with, amazingly, an easterly wind. Once I'd poled out the genoa and set the main, the wind, typically, shifted to the west. The forecast though has been largely accurate with light westerly winds and a slight sea. I'm hoping to make the 160 mile trip to Gibraltar in one hop - saving a 40 mile detour into Malaga and back. The autopilot is steering a good course with the cockpit repeater working again, useful as I've temporarily "disabled" the chart-table controller - one step forward, two back...

Open, roly anchorage N37deg 11.8' W01deg48.4'
Playa de los Genoveses: N36deg 44.5' W02deg07.1'

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Spain

I made it to Spain - only just though. I arrived with only 3 litres of diesel left in the tank and no reserve.

My last day at sea began with a decent southern wind. Perfect, I should arrive early evening after an easy reach to the coast. I began to anticipate my first tapas. Then the wind died. There wasn't a breath. I checked the forecast. It looked as though the wind would remain "light and variable" until the evening when it would pick up, but as a south-westerly head-wind. Time for a rethink and some chart perusal. I changed course to Cartagena. It was closer and I'd be able to sail when the evening wind arrived. Although Cartagena was only 50 miles away I only had enough fuel for 30 miles of motoring. I spent the afternoon motoring until there was any slight sign of wind then tried to coax the boat along with barely enough wind to ruffle the surface of the water. I finally stopped using the engine and drifted, so that I'd have enough fuel to motor into port. As the prospect of a celebratory tapas disappeared, I cursed my impatience when leaving Sardinia; if I'd filled my fuel cans, I'd be ashore rather than rolling around at sea.

The one benefit of the windless afternoon was the smooth water aided my turtle spotting. In the windy morning I hadn't spotted one. Do turtles spend longer under water when it's rougher or is it just easier to spot them in calm conditions? There were so many I started to speculate on how I could harness them to pull the boat towards land; a water equivalent of a husky pack.

The other event of the afternoon was passing through the Greenwich meridian. In fact it was so windless that I passed over the meridian multiple times; the current pulled me back and the little wind there was I harnessed to try to push me westward.
As forecast the wind arrived in the evening and eventually at 4am I dropped anchor in a small cove just to the east of Catagena; I didn't fancy heading into an unknown port with scant information in the dark. I awoke to see I'd anchored in the shadow of some impressive cliffs, no danger, just not what I'd anticipated when I'd anchored earlier.

Good to be back in Spain again. My Spanish is slightly better than my virtually non-existent Italian and I had fun trying it out as I explored the town, dividing most of my time between the three main supermarkets in town. It's great to be provisioning for an offshore trip again.

04/05/09: Anchorage in cove east of Cartagena: N37deg 33.4' W0deg 55.0'
04/05/09: Cartagena marina: N37deg 35.8' W0deg 58.7'

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Light and variable

I'm sure in the weeks to come when I'm battling against ferocious Atlantic squalls, I'll look back at this windless trip nostalgically. However right now I could do with a little more wind. I'm down to my last 30 litres of fuel and all the forecast can offer is "light and variable". Invariably a "variable" forecast means, I'll raise the spinnaker to try to catch any faint breath that deems to come in my direction, then half an hour later the wind will shift giving me 15 minutes of rope juggling on the foredeck to jibe the spinnaker and main. Once everything's settled down, the wind will die complete or shift in way that won't work with the current rig. More rope and pole juggling. When things settle down and I glance at the log I find I'm making 2 knots. With the energy I'm putting into barely keeping the boat moving, it feels like I could make more progress swimming with the boat in tow.

On the positive side, I've again seen a staggering number of turtles floating close-by and the occasional fish or dolphin jumping in the distance. It still makes me stop and marvel at the magic of the scene.

Position @ 10.20pm 2nd July 2009: N37deg 11.4' E00 46.6'
Distance to Spain (Cabo de Gata): 140

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tuna jumping in the moonlight

Another day of motoring interspersed by attempts to sail. Still perfect for turtle spotting. I've seen at least five today. Are there are more turtles in this part of the Med or does the more usual wave-ridden sea prevent me from spotting them? It's so calm that their bobbing shells are easily visible in the distance.

The dragon fly is dead, long live my new dragon fly hitch-hiker. Would have loved to have a microscope onboard รก la Darwin's Beagle voyage, my dead dragon looks like the perfect specimen; its compound eyes definitely deserving closer scrutiny. I have more Algerian stowaways on board - an aphid, a butterfly, at least three moths and the new dragon fly.

I'm definitely planning to stop in Spain. Depending on the wind I should get in either late Friday or Saturday.

Been studying my Atlantic island pilot and reading up on the Azores. Really looking forward to getting there now. It'll be my final mission.

For the last four hours, I've been sailing under spinnaker and full main, making 2-3 knots over a smooth sea. It's incredibly peaceful and fantastic to have time to make whatever progress the wind allows. Just hope the little wind there is lasts the night. I need wind, as I won't make it to Spain on diesel alone.

Still no luck with the fishing, despite having small tuna jumping behind and either side of the boat by moonlight. I take the line in at sunset but when I noticed the jumping fish I silently paid the line out into the middle of the school. The result: a single bite then nothing. Perhaps Mediterranean tuna are more discerning than the Indian ocean variety and turn their noses up at my pink and blue squid. I'll try a new design tomorrow

Position @ 10.55, 1st July 2009: N37deg 29.5' E02deg 24.1'
Distance to Spain (Cabo de Gata): 220

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dolphins at sunset

So far the wind has lived up-to the forecast's billing of light and variable. That said when the wind arrives it makes for dream sailing - smooth progress over a flat sea, with just the faint sound of the water lapping around the bow to break the silence.

The light winds are the result of a high sitting to my north, I was hoping the high pressure would impose a stronger easterly flow; each time the wind picks up I assume it's here to stay unfortunately it seems to vanish within an hour. I raised the spinnaker to try to make the most of the little wind there is. It's ideal spinnaker conditions, with no swell to unsettle the sail. In this configuration we sailed all afternoon making 1-3 knots, In the lulls I was reluctant to lower the spinnaker knowing the effort required to raise it again if the wind returned, however I finally gave in when the log read 0.0 knots.

Plenty of shipping about - there's normally at least one ship or fishing boat on the horizon - but no collision courses yet.

I set off without my usual frenzied dash around the markets for fresh provisions. Consequently I'm already having to ration onions. I've eaten the delicious peaches I bought, the fresh basil has died, but the rosemary I took from Isola Marettimo is lasting well - I think I'll survive though.

Despite being 50 miles off I can see the hills of Algeria to my south - be great if they could send some wind my way.

Plenty of wildlife today, with initially a couple of airborne visitors; a moth and a dragon-fly. The dragon-fly choose to perch itself preciously on top of the VHF aerial and the moth sunned itself on the corner of the spinnaker until I was forced to remove it before I dropped the sail. A couple more turtles floated close by and as the sun set, a school of dolphins joined me. I never tire of dolphin visits and this was especially memorable, with the calm clear water I could watch their antics far beneath the surface.

Some of them would swim briefly on their sides, seeming to watch me, watching them. As I stood at bow marvelling at their display, another school headed over, leaping out of the air as they rapidly converged. If they'd arrived five minutes later it wouldn't have been so spectacular as a slight wind rippled the surface, but as it was the timing was perfect. To add to the magic, a group of small tunas mocked my fishing attempts by jumping out of the water to the north, a turtle raised its head just in front of the boat and the reflection of the sun on the clouds covered the sea in gold leaf.

The dragon fly has moved its perch to a stanchion - but it still looks precarious. I've left some water out for it. I wonder if scientists in years to come will debate how the Algerian dragon-fly managed to the journey to the Azores?

Position @ 11.30 30th June: N37deg 40.3' Edeg52.7'

Monday, June 29, 2009

Westward from Sardinia

Firstly an apology for the lack of blog updates recently. The distractions inherent in coast and island hopping though Greece and Italy haven't lent themselves to establishing a regular blog writing routine. Also as the day rapidly approaches when I have to convince others to part with their money in exchange for my knowledge and skills, I'm spending time working out what those skills might be. /end-excuse.

I've been waiting for nearly a week in the Agate Islands off Sicily's west coast for the strong westerly winds to abate. Not that I'm complaining - any extra time in Italy is a bonus. The winds finally eased and after a quick dash to Sardinia, it was time to head on again especially with a benign forecast.

I left from an anchorage in the Gulf of Cagliari with a gentle northerly wind which rapidly morphed into a strong westerly. Not at all what the forecast had predicted, though given the changeable weather I've had so far in the Mediterranean it shouldn't have come as a surprise. Under doubly reefed main and genoa I tried to beat my way west as best I could, which turned out to be SW towards Algeria - not ideal but it felt great to be on my way again.

It's 715 miles to Gibraltar from my point of departure in Sardinia. My plan is to leave Gibraltar for the Azores on or before 13th July, which looks achievable, though a change in the weather could upset my timetable.

Unlike most trips, I set off not knowing exactly where my next landfall would be. I've the Balearic Islands to the north, and mainland Spain bordering the approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar. My initial unplanned SW journey makes a detour to the Balearic Islands unfeasible - besides which I don't have vast amounts of time left and I think I'd prefer to spend longer if possible in the Azores.

The strong westerly wind vanished after the first night at sea, so I've been motoring westwards with brief flurries of sailing activity. It's not going to be my fastest trip as I'm trying to sail as much as possible to preserve diesel even if it means I drift along barely making 2 knots. My latest plan is to make a landfall in Spain in Cabo de Grata - mainly to refuel and reprovision before pushing on to Gibraltar.

I've had an easy start. The autopilot has mainly worked - though there's still an intermittent problem, which has so far eluded detection. When activated the pilot only steers in one direction. After a while it "fixes itself" and in the meantime I've a work-around involving elastic.

The flat water has been perfect for spotting wildlife. I've seen a couple of turtles floating on the surface, had a brief dolphin visit and been through a field of small Portuguese man-of-war jelly fish, heading east with their sails up.

In an over enthusiastic bout of tidying-up I finally disposed of my rusty machete, which has provided coconut opening services throughout the Pacific islands. I guess I should exchange it for an olive de-stoner tool.

Another noteworthy change is that I'll be heading through the Greenwich meridian on this passage. I was confused for a while when my course to my Gibraltar didn't make any sense - I'd set the the waypoint as 2deg east rather than 2deg west.

Position on 29/6/2009 @ midnight: N38deg 17.1' E8deg 11.4'
Position on 30/6/2009 @ 2am: N37deg 52.8' E6deg 15.3'

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Messina to Milazzo in a gale

I awoke to strong southerly winds blowing through the marina and stirring up a confused sea in the strait. At last a favourable wind, though I wanted to ensure I timed my departure to avoid potentially nasty wind against tide conditions. I'd failed to predict the tidal direction the day before - I'd experienced 1.5 knots against me, though I'd anticipated that the tide would be with me. My Italian neighbours helpfully described the tidal regime - north until 2pm then south with a hour of slack water. I'd be going through 11.30-1 so all seemed good.

As the morning progressed, the wind increased. I can see why the marina insisted I berthed stern-to. Reversing out in the strong cross-wind would have been a challenge to the most experienced Mediterranean sailor, for me it would have been a disaster.
When I left the wind was a steady 25 knots with gusts to 30 knots. I arranged the the marina dinghy to keep my bow from falling off too soon and press-ganged a couple of other sailors to cast-off my lines. Thanks to the help my departure from the marina was without incident, almost professional.

I set off in search of the fuel pontoon I'd been assured I'd find along the shore a mile to the north. Sure enough I found it, but going alongside would be have been a disaster for the top-sides. I watched a pilot boat riding against the quay and decided that with the wind as it was, I'd manage without a refill. Instead I altered course for the northern entrance to the straits with nothing but a small genoa. I was making 7-8 knots over the water but only 4-5 knots over the ground, no wonder the sea was so confused. Not sure if I'd misunderstood my Italian neighbours, the tide certainly wasn't what I'd been led to expect, anyway I made it through though the tides in Messina Straits remain a mystery.

Once out of the strait I changed course to the NW expecting the wind to start easing the further I went from the funnel of the strait. How wrong can I be, with a tiny genoa on a reach Kika was heeling over as though we were fighting into the wind under full sail. The noise was incredible. Even though I was close to shore the fetch was enough to launch numerous waves over the side. It wouldn't have been pleasant further off shore. This wind wasn't predicted, though through-out the day, the radio broadcast updated forecasts each time increasing the strength.

I briefly considered heading downwind to one of the Aeolian islands rather than face a fine reach to Milazzo in the conditions. However I decided I'd press on and divert if I couldn't make my course. Fortunately the Kika took it in her stride and we made good time under a tiny genoa.

The Mediterranean weather is full of surprises, changing from a force 8+ to almost disappearing to a force 4 within 5 minutes. Then for the last hour it became highly temperamental, unpredictable and moody; dying and then returning with renewed vigor. Though it was hard work and at times deafening for me there's no contest between a tough sail and a long day's motoring.

I dropped anchor north of the main harbour in Milazzo, dried off and let my ears adjust to the evening sounds of the town.

6/6/09, Anchorage off Milazzo: N38deg 13.3' E15deg 14.7'

Friday, June 05, 2009

Rocella Ionica to Messina

I reluctantly dragged myself away from Rocella Ionica, even before the end of my free stay period, as I had friends joining me in a few days time in Sicily.

It was 67 miles from Rocella to Messina so as ever an early start was required, not helped by another night's liquor sampling with Luc. The little wind there was kept teasing me. Promising I'd be able to sail once I rounded the next headland only to shift and remain resolutely from ahead. Even with a favourable shift, it wouldn't have been strong enough to allow me to make Messina by night-fall. I resigned myself to a day of motoring.

Unfortunately the autopilot had its own ideas; only steering in one direction, which forced me to hand-steer. One benefit of being stuck at the wheel all day is there's more chance of seeing wildlife, such as the large jumping dolphins that I spied close to shore as I rounded the toe of Italy. Also as I rounded the "toe", I caught my first glimpse of the impressive snow covered peak of Mount Etna, floating above the haze.

My knowledge of Sicily was based mainly on the rural scenes in "The Godfather", which in no way prepared me for the sheer scale of Messina, nor the quantity of ferry traffic plying the strait or the large number of cruise ships in port.

The marina was a little north of the main port, and despite having a marina boat to help position Kika for stern-to berthing, the cross wind proved too much and required some deft fending off from myself and fellow sailors before I was securely moored. I say securely, but I wouldn't trust the marina in a storm. I was moored on the outer floating pontoon which undulates with the wash from passing ferries and large waves kicked up by the strong tides in the strait. It looked like the cracks in the concrete had been filled with epoxy, almost like taping over the problem.

I'd arrived on a Friday which turned out to be party night in the marina. It was an invitation only launch party for a new car. I felt slightly out of place as I wove between the chic party goers on the way to a much needed shower. I should have realised that such a glamorous event would come at a cost, but was still shocked at the price - 60 euros for one night's berthing.

5/6/09: Messina: N38deg 12.0' E15deg 33.6'

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Rocella Ionica

As my first taste of Italy, Rocella Ionica wasn't a bad introduction. The marina was free for the first week, after the first day the staff greeted you like a long lost friend, the shops in the nearby town were well stocked and there was a excellent pizzeria close-by, who sold their pizzas by the half metre. I celebrated my birthday with my French neighbour Luc, half-metre of pizza and completed the evening with Luc insisting I help him work through his impressive liquor collection.

The wind had shifted to the south so I happily spent a few days exploring the town on my trusty folding bike and generally acclimatising myself to the fantastic produce and Italian way of life.

4/6/09: Rocella Ionica: N38deg 19.6' E16deg 26.0'

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

To Italy

I left Meganisi sorry to leave Blue Marlin, but looking forward to the passage ahead and particularly my arrival in Italy.

As I set sail off the north of the island, the wind steering refused to steer a straight course. I'd reassembled the steering gear incorrectly. Fault finding is easy when you've made the same mistake before; the same thing happened leaving Panama. Half later after a detour into an anchorage and some spanner work and I was off again with the wind steering pointing me towards Italy.

As I headed away from the islands I left the large Ionian charter fleet behind and barely saw another boat until close to the Italian shore.

For a change the wind was initially from behind. It had been such a long time since I'd had a following wind that it took me a while to eliminate all the crashes from the lockers as Kika rolled from side to side. Later the wind shifted to the north giving a fantastic beam reach. What a joy to experience the bow crashing through the waves as Kika speeds across the sea without the drone of the engine.

The forecast reported favourable winds until the following day when they'd shift more to the west. Ho hum, can't have everything especially when I was sailing in a forecast area stretching to the southern Italian shore named by the Greeks as "boot"
Sure enough the following day the wind shifted to the west. First thing in the morning I had 111 miles to go to Rocella Ionica. By midday I still had 111 miles left to go. I was tacking to the north but as fast as I was making westing so I was heading north. The promised northerly shift,failed to materialise so by late afternoon, as the prospect of making landfall early for my birthday started to diminish, I decided it was time to take action - engine and electronic steering.
That night the radar kept me awake with its alarm, being unable to distinguish between approaching squalls and ships. I had impressive lightening storms to the south and very dark clouds overhead, plus the occasional fishing boat to contend with.

As night morphed into day, I left the dark clouds behind me, the shipping stopped, the sea calmed down and I could finally make an effortless 6 knots under sail on a direct course to Rocella Ionica.

I'd received a warning about the entrance to the port from Jasper on Antares - the approach had silted up and he advised giving the outer breakwater a wide berth - still it wasn't an easy entrance with the depth dropping rapidly and being unsure whether I should steer to port or starboard to find deeper water. Finally I made it in without the indignity of a grounding that Antares suffered.

3/6/09: Rocella Ionica: N38deg 19.6' E16deg 26.0'

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meganisi with Blue Marlin

I received word via email that Blue Marlin were waiting for me 15 miles north in Meganisi "in a paradise". So once I'd filled up with diesel from a portable tanker that arrived especially for me and Nikolas the water-man had unlocked the tap on the quay, I was off in search of the Norwegians.

True to their word, they'd found a paradise and kept a space for me. The anchorage was in a small inlet in a wooded bay in the north of Meganisi. The inlet was 3 boat length wide; boats moored with their bow anchor forward and stern lines to olive trees ashore. Rune helped me secure my lines.Apart from our recent meeting in Aigina, I'd last seen Blue Marlin a couple of times in the Red Sea. One time we met on a beach to which I'd paddled my kayak ashore. The twins had looked covetously on - the kayak was perfect for them, they could lift it, paddle it, swim with it. So once I was safely moored I pumped up the orange kayak and sent it their way. Over the next few days I think it was used more than the rest of the trip combined. That evening Hedda and Marita asked what I'd called the kayak, apparently "orange kayak" wasn't a good enough answer, so I asked if they'd name it for me. The next day they gave me three options:
  • Nemo (from the animated film)
  • Glalaks (raw orange salmon)
  • Humo-humu-nuku-nuku-apoau (Hawian for a fish whose name is longer than the fish
They all seemed equally good, so we decided it should have a first, middle and last name and duly christened the inflatable: Nemo Glalaks Humo-humu-nuku-nuku-apoau

Rune and the twins had built a barbecue ashore, in amongst the terraced olive trees. It provided the perfect setting for our evening meals.

The local town was 30 minute walk away and would itself have been an attractive port to stay. Its numerous shops would allow me to extend my stay indefinitely - highly tempting. However time was pressing on with a rendezvous with my next visitors in Sicily in a week's time. I set-to preparing the boat for the passage to Italy, meaning I dismantled the wind-steering, temporarily destroying the tranquillity of the anchorage while I used a punch and mallet to dislodge a recalcitrant shaft.
My last evening I let slip that my birthday was in a couple of days time, before we parted for the night Idunn insisted that I come for breakfast before leaving the next morning. It seemed as though she's been up all night preparing a birthday breakfast. What a treat; pancakes, cheese, bread, cinnamon apple cake, vanilla sauce, even cards and presents - it was hard to drag myself away from Blue Marlin's wonderful company in such a beautiful setting.

30th May, Paradise in Meganisi: N38deg 40.6' E28deg 46.9'

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cruising the Ionian

I'm always pleasantly surprised when a rendezvous comes together, especially one which is at the mercy of the elements. I'd only the water and fuel to take on when I was spotted by Rob and Joe. They'd cunningly timed their arrival just as Kika became reasonably presentable.

I was a little worried that Rob and family, not being used to life afloat, might miss home comforts especially when compared to the functional but basic facilities on board Kika. For example, although I have an indoor shower, I almost exclusively use the cockpit shower. I needn't have worried, everyone readily adapted, and the Ionian ports cater well for the requirements of their floating visitors with showers available in most ports.

It was an easy fun week exploring the nearby islands, stopping for lunch at an anchorage en-route and arriving late-afternoon in one of many attractive small port-towns. Quite a contrast to the previous week's dash across the Aegean. We even (nearly) perfected a Mediterranean mooring routine, with Rob letting out the anchor chain, Judy improving her warp throwing skills and I attempting to reverse Kika into the available berth. Joe and Grace provided encouragement where needed.

Rob brought lots of exciting technical "toys" onboard. An Arduino board was one, which we programmed to be a rudimentary oscilloscope. The idea being it would help me with autopilot fault finding.

The only slight boat related drama was as we left Astakos. The same burnt plastic smell began emanating from around the chart table. A few days before I'd assumed it was coming from the autopilot. This time it couldn't be the autopilot as I had plenty of steering helpers. There was a bay close by so we stopped ostensibly for a swim, but really it gave me a chance to locate the problem. It turned out to be a melted sparking fuse holder used by the wind-generator/solar panel. Isn't the fuse supposed to blow rather than the fuse holder melt? One mystery solved and I soon was in the water myself after wiring in a spare holder and fuse.

26th May, Kastos: N38deg 34.0' E20deg 54.7'
27th May, Kalamos southern anchorage:N38deg 35.9' E20deg 53.2'
28th May, Kalamos town: N38deg 37.4' E20deg 55.9'
29th May, Anchorage close to Astakos: N38deg 30.3' E21deg 02.1'

Monday, May 25, 2009

Astakos

I awoke in Krioneri to find a heavy dew covering the decks. The unusual conditions continued when I ran into a thick wall of fog soon after leaving the anchorage. Rapidly my world was reduced to a 50m radius. I can see where J.K.Rowling's dementors might have originated. As the fog descended, blotting out the sun, a chill engulfed the boat. I even started to suffer from dementor-like hope sapping, starting to wonder if I'd ever see the sun again as it wasn't until midday when the fog dispersed.

Mark had subtly mentioned that perhaps it would be good idea to clean the ports, dust down-below and wipe out the lockers before my next visitors arrived. As I set to on the ports I saw he had a point. Fortunately I arrived in Astakos in the early afternoon. Plenty of time to clean-up, organise water, fuel and laundry. The laundry was particularly critical as my last load had been over two weeks before and my clean clothes locker was nearly bare.

Astakos was my first single-handed Mediterranean mooring attempt. It wasn't my finest hour. Eventually, with help from half the town, I was secure and able to take up the nearby restaurant owner's insistent offer of a late lunch, "eat now the launderette will be open at 4pm". Most surprisingly he didn't charge for my plate of calimari, "come this evening and invite the other yachts". A marketing technique that seemed to work, judging by the relative popularity of his restaurant that night.

I eventually found the launderette which turned out to be a dry cleaners and quickly realised there was no chance of getting my clothes washed for a reasonable price the same day. Somewhat dejected I returned with my bag of washing. The next door boat suggested I take up the local hotel's offer of a shower and wash my clothes at the same time. Brilliant - back on track. Unfortunately half way through my hand-wash, there was an irate knock on the door. The hotel manager burst in and clearly wasn't impressed. My mitigating plea that I checked with reception, before dragging my sack of clothes off to the room, clearly wasn't permissible evidence. I was guilty of using too much hot water, and using the shower for unintended purposes. I was sent packing with my dripping bag. No matter, I'd washed most of the clothes, just the sheets remained unclean. I needed some new ones anyway, and luckily found a couple of new white cotton sheets in a dusty corner of a general store - what a treat.

Astakos: 25th May: N38deg32.0' E21deg04.9'

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Krioneri

I left Kiato as soon as I'd tested the new circuit breaker in the SSB circuit. As I transmitted the breaker flipped. Nothing wrong there, and no visible sign in the autopilot of burnt wires. The mystery continued....

As I made my way up the gulf of Corinth I couldn't help but notice how much lusher the surrounding hills were after the unremitting scorched barren islands of the Aegean. It made a pleasant change.

I busied myself with boat jobs, while the electronic pilot worked its fragrant magic.
Excitement for the day was passing under the impressive Rion-Andirrion suspension bridge. It seems the Greeks are understandably proud of the structure - so much so that you have to call the bridge control on the VHF to request permission to pass underneath.
I arrived with a couple of hours to spare before sunset in Krioneri and anchored in 3m in the shadow of sheer cliffs.

24th May: N38deg 20.5' E21deg 35.6'

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Aigina to Kiato through the Corinth Canal

The day of Mark's departure dawned. It had been fantastic having him on board, I'd learnt a lot, Kika was better for the experience, I just hope it doesn't take Mark too long to recover from his "holiday".

As we walked round the harbour towards the hydrofoil that would be the start of Mark's homeward journey, I spotted Blue Marlin - what a fantastic surprise. Over coffee we briefly caught up and they tried to persuade me to stay another day and sail together through the Corinth Canal. It was a very tempting offer, but it would mean I'd be late for my rendezvous with Rob and family. Reluctantly I parted, with the hope we'd meet-up in the Ionian.

In a final shopping spree in the hardware shops I found a circuit breaker that I could substitute for the one on the autopilot. Rushing back to the boat I quickly swapped the old for the new breaker and set off. Wonders of wonders the autopilot worked. However I'm starting to learn it's better not to prematurely celebrate autopilot repairs and sure enough after an hour a burnt wire smell started emanating from the area around the autopilot electronics. I decided I should play safe and hand-steer towards the Canal, planning to investigate while waiting for my transit.

I tied-up at the waiting pontoon and bounded into the canal authority building. It was three o'clock and I was unsure if I'd be able to transit the canal that day. After the wait to transit the Panama Canal and the hassle associated with Suez, I couldn't believe how quickly the paper work was sorted; one form "sign here and here" and then was asked if a transit in 5 minutes time would be too soon for me. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was then offered a beer and some snacks - must have been dreaming. Back on the boat I waited and sure enough after a couple of minutes the bridge disappeared into the water and the lights changed to green. Too good to be true, but it was for definitely for real, as I made my way into the canal and was rapidly dwarfed by the 70m+ limestone sides. If I'd thought about it in advance I'm sure I could have recovered my canal fees with some paying tourists. The shortest, friendliest and most impressive canal so far.

I couldn't help but feel a little bit smug as I exited the canal and saw the long line of cars waiting for me. The day continued to improve with a decent wind on a flat sea, giving a great sail towards the bustling town of Kiato.

Kiato: N38deg 00.8' E22deg 45.1'

Friday, May 22, 2009

Aigina

It was a pleasant change to wake-up without the howl of a gale disturbing my first conscious moments. The sea was still lumpy, but our hard fought northing proved worth-while as we had an easy reach to the southern tip of Aigina.

The passage wasn't without drama, when we nearly hit an uncharted, unmarked reef leaving Kea. I was busy at the mast hoisting the main, when Mark spotted a dark patch of water ahead. It was unmistakably rock-like and wouldn't have yielded if we'd continued in the same direction. Nothing on the chart or in the pilot guide mentioned it. Sobering.

We arrived early afternoon into the upmarket town of Aigina where it seems chic Atheanians go to escape the capital. It took a while sink-in that despite the some atrocious weather we'd made it and we found ourselves in the middle of a stunning Mediterranean town. The hardships of the last few days disappeared - it all seemed worthwhile again.
Not only was Aigina well provided with decent restaurants and boutiques but best of all it had a good selection of well equipped hardware stores. A replacement firling line was our top requirement. On Kika the original firling line had half its length of core removed so it could stow more easily on the firling drum. I was unsure how to modify a rope in this way, but fortunately Mark had replaced the same line on Freespirit and was happy to demonstrate. We initially bought some cheap line - you can tell it's cheap when it's sold by the weight rather than length. Mark explained the procedure and set about prizing the core out of an opening he'd made in the braid. After half an hour of frustration and only a battered line to show for it we decided that cheap line was a false economy - the core wouldn't part from the outer braid. Undeterred we headed back into town in search of a more up market hardware store and eventually found one who sold his line by the metre. It was significantly more expensive but allowed us to quickly complete the job and relax, finishing the day with a celebratory meal out.

22nd May, Aigina: N37deg 44.7' E23deg 25.6'

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Syros to Kea

The calmness overnight was replaced by another gale blowing through the anchorage. Enough was enough. We'd earned our right to an easy passage after fighting through the previous day's gale, couldn't the wind give us a break? The previous day's enthusiasm for doing battle with the weather deserted me. I just couldn't summon up the energy to head out into a gale again especially as this time we'd be close hauled over a larger distance (35 miles). What to do? There were other options, but they'd mean lose our hard-won northing. The sensible decision would have been to explore the island but Mark's imminent departure and the deadline of my next visitors kept me from making a decision. We worked out the latest we could leave would be 1pm and contrary to our experience of the previous day, with the wind increasing in the afternoon, the forecast indicated that the wind would decrease and the angle would improve later in the day. To mask my indecision we busied ourselves with boat jobs - a fuel filter change for the engine and an attempt to fix the previous day's damaged toilet seat supports. Thinking about something else was therapeutic, but the reality of our schedule meant that unless we made for Kea that day, I'd be unlikely to make to the Ionian in time to meet my friends as planned. Outside the wind felt harshly bitter, the sun was obscured - more like early season in northern Europe than summer in the Med. I was all set to call off the day's sailing when a small yacht entered the anchorage whose crew had cagoules covering bathing suits - could it really be that bad out there, perhaps I was going soft. We decided to leave.

We headed off tentatively with three reefs, but as we ventured out of the anchorage the wind died, so slowly we worked our way up to full sail. Perhaps after all, this would be a surprisingly easy trip. It was not to be; as we rounded the head-land the wind and sea increased and I reduced sail down to two then finally three reefs again.
When I left the UK, my waterproofs had already seen years of service and were loosing their ability to keep out the water, but I told myself I was off to the tropics with my years of apprenticeship to the sometimes harsh northern European climate behind me. I enviously watched Mark remain dry in his latest breathable oilskins while I became one with drowning rodents. Fortunately Mark saw the problem and stoically steered most of the way keeping up a great close-hauled course as the spray covered him, while I spent most of the time sheltered pathetically under the spray hood and busied myself with refreshments down below.

Halfway across the furling line dramatically snapped and the full genoa rapidly unfurled. We eventually managed to get the flogging sail under control, by rejoining the line and removing the blocks through which the knot wouldn't pass. It wasn't ideal, but it kept us going.

Finally drenched, cold and exhausted we arrived in the last light of the day at our destination - feeling more relief than elation.

21st May Kea: N37 34.7' E24deg16.7'

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mikonos & Syros

Finally a decent wind allowed us to sail the 70 miles from Lipso to Mikonos. We celebrated our arrival just before dark, feeling that our ambitious schedule might yet be achievable. However all that changed the following morning when we awoke to the sound of a near gale blowing through the "sheltered" anchorage with the forecast indicating that the strong northerly winds would dominate for at least the next two days. The idea of leaving wasn't particularly appealing, neither was the prospect of being storm-bound for two days and ruining our plans. Postponing any decision we hiked across the island and spent the morning in the main town.
The packed tourist centre provided a stark contrast with the tranquillity of our anchorage in Ornos, with the narrow streets overflowing with visitors whose numbers had been multiplied by two large cruise ships in port. Still it killed a few hours and on the return trip we tried to convince ourselves that the wind was dropping - not easy when even swimming pools had white-caps - but despite the evidence we decided to leave. Our plan was make a short 20 mile hop to the next island, Syros. More modest than our original destination, but in the circumstances it felt like a good pragmatic choice.

Back onboard we were nearly foiled in our efforts to stow the dinghy by a couple of ferocious squalls which mocked our attempts at controlling the hoisted inflatable. Eventually we wrestled it onto the foredeck, having to shout to be heard against the howl of the wind. While we busied ourselves preparing the boat for sea, we both tried to ignore the self-evident truth that the wind had increased throughout the morning. How bad could it be? We'd both skippered boats across oceans and Kika felt in good shape, though as we struggled to raise the anchor in the teeth of the gale, I started questioning my assumption that the challenges of the Mediterranean would be trivial compared with the Red Sea. Mark later admitted to having second thoughts about leaving. Once the anchor was up it was a shock to realise that we were heading out of the bay making 5 knots under bare-poles and spray-hood and we anxiously watched the spray being blown off the waves in the squalls. Tentatively we raised a minimum of sail - a tiny genoa and three reefs in the main - Kika raced towards the south-western tip of Mikonos; easy sailing on flat water which lifted some of the apprehension we both felt.

Once round the headland we were exposed to the full fetch of the Aegean and our course brought the wind round to a close reach, however Kika came alive. She felt more like a dinghy than a 13 ton yacht; instantly reacting to the helm and bending to the squalls as they hit. It was a wet, but exhilarating sail as we headed at 7-8 knots in the gale towards Syros.

In no time at all we were dropping sails and negotiating our new anchorage. Unusually we had the bay to ourselves, normally something to relish but we'd hoped there'd be at least one other boat to be impressed with our achievement - like conquering heroes with no-one to welcome us home. The anchor dram of ouzo and water felt well deserved and gradually the waves of tension lifted as the screaming wind ceased and my ears adjusted to the shelter of the anchorage.

Damage report: One bowl shattered beyond repair (poor stowage) and both toilet seat supports fractured, though easily repaired with epoxy.

Mikonos 19/5/09:N37deg 25.1' E25deg19.4'
Syros 20/5/09: N37deg 23' E24deg56'

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lipso

After Rhodes and Kos I longed for the peace and simplicity of an anchorage. We continued our northerly progress, with a relatively short hop to the southern shore of Lipso. I became caught-up in Mark's boat job enthusiasm and I worked all day fitting a cockpit anchor switch, which I'd decided had become essential if I was to attempt any single-handed Mediterranean mooring. I just failed to complete the job in time to drop anchor in the bay but felt that the new feature required a celebration. The guide mentioned a small taverna at the head of the bay and we ventured ashore enthusiastically only to have faith in the advice of the guide once again shattered with a settlement comprising a couple of boarded-up buildings. No matter we'd arrived in good time so decided to hike across the island to investigate the main town. It seems I set a rather impatient pace - Mark later said he thought we were on an enforced march - but once I'd spied life around the small harbour, there was no holding me back.

Rather breathlessly we reminisced about how much we'd both enjoyed tapas in the bars in Spain. Someone must have heard us, as once we settled down to celebrate Kika's new functionality, the landlady provided us with small plates of nibbles including barbecued octopus and salad. The system worked well as we ended-up staying in the bar, ordering larger plates of chewy octopus and Greek salad and spent a great evening watching life in the town pass-by. We even made it back across the island in the dark albeit at a slightly more sedate pace.

18/5/09 Southern Lipso anchorage: N37deg 16.9' E26deg 46.3'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The parking lot in Kos

With the forecast predicting strong northerly winds for later in the week, we decided to make some northing while we could. The result - another early start and long day motoring to Kos. The pilot again put us off berthing in the old town - "This harbour is very crowded in the summer and it can be difficult to find a berth. Unless you specifically want to go here it is better to go to the marina". We should have investigated before squeezing ourselves into the marina as the old harbour had plenty of space and a great atmosphere. Still we left Kos, freshly showered, full of diesel and finally with the cruising permit the officials in Kastellorizo were unable to provide.

17/5/09, Kos marina: N36deg 53.5' E27deg 18.1'

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A night in the underbelly of Rhodes

A morning mist covered the water as we raised our anchor and sneaked out of Kastellorizo in the first light of day. Our Greek pilot guide states: "In all my sailing around Greek waters in every month of the year, I have encountered fog only rarely". Well despite that reassurance the early morning mist quickly turned into an impenetrable wall of fog. For a couple of hours we slowly edged our way through the bank, blindly navigating with the radar and listening out for other ships.

Apart from the early morning excitement of the fog the 70 miles to Rhodes was uneventful with no wind and engine taking the strain. Mark decided that Kika's cockpit could do with a polish and we both set-to with the rubbing compound and polish - what a crew!

The pilot guide put me off visiting the main harbour - "Madraki is hopelessly crowded in the summer, with charter operators zealously guarding their berths... fouled anchors are a common occurrence in Madraki simply because there are so many yachts." Instead we headed for the yet to be completed (or started) Rhodes marina; an industrial dock fringed by numerous scrap heaps including the last resting place for old Russian built inter-island hydrofoils.
The contrast with picturesque Kastellorizo was stark. One positive was the proximity to a "Euro Spar". My shopping methods still need to adapt to life in Europe. I have to stop myself filling-up the boat, anticipating long periods away from the next well stocked outlet and am still surprised and excited each time I find well-stocked shelves. Sadly extended periods with no use for a wallet seem long gone.

While we were shopping the only other yacht in the harbour guarded Kika from the local youth. Rumour has it that other yachts have returned to discover they have to negotiate a price for the return of their fenders and other removable items.

The next morning as we we sailed past other yachts moored in the well-located old town marina that didn't look particular full, Mark stretched his ability to find a positive with "at least our port wasn't busy, was close to the shops and was free". As our Germanic friends might say "and that was really something".

16/5/09, Rhodes: N36deg 25.0' E28deg 14.0'

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kastellorizo - first taste of Greece

Our first destination in Greece was to be the small island of Kastellorizo. A Greek outpost off the Turkish coast. Friends on Lasse had written excitedly about its beauty and tranquillity. As we approached what looked like a barren rock I started questioning Lasse's judgement. However as we approached the anchorage a small attractive settlement appeared. It wouldn't have mattered either way as the enthusiastic welcome from Lasse was sufficient. Even though we'd seen each other recently in Ismalia there was still a lot of talk about. My trip home, Ben working on the island, their plan to stay a year in the anchorage and Neils' and Lisa's excitement at attending the local school - 40 pupils with 16 teachers. I don't remember being that enthusiastic about starting school - apprehensive perhaps. Could that be a benefit of four years onboard a boat. Once we'd briefly caught-up, Neils drew a map of the island showing how to find the customs office.
After all the trouble and expense we went to obtain our Turkish papers when I checked them I noticed the clearance stated our previous port as Girne (northern Cyprus) - ruining our attempted subterfuge. I needn't have worried it was one of the easiest check-ins ever, with humorous, self-deprecating custom officials - "we've had 3000 years to get it right, but we can't currently give you the document you require without a tax number ... so carry-on and I'm sure we'll sort it out eventually." Handing over 20 Euros cleared us into the EU and I hoped put an end to bureaucratic expensive check-ins.

Once we were legal it was time to explore the island. I could well understand Lasse's enthusiasm. There was virtually no traffic in the two small well-cared for settlements. We walked up-to the summit of the island amongst wild oregano, rosemary and thyme with great views across the sea to Turkey. The water around the anchorage was stunningly clear and to crown a perfect day that evening we saw a turtle swimming around the boat.
Sadly our plan dictated we needed to leave first thing the next morning for Rhodes, it would have been fantastic to spend longer with Lasse. We left with sprigs of wild herbs hanging the cabin keeping the memory of their small paradise alive.

15/5/09, Kastellorizo: N36deg 08.9' E29deg 35.9'

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Turkish turn around

With each successive haul-out, the job list mounts and it seems to become progressively harder to make it back into the water. Fortunately the prospect of Mark (of Freespirit fame) arriving still to find Kika unpainted and in-pieces focused my attention on the most pressing tasks. When the "top-end" sailor arrived he found a newly anti-fouled, polished hull, with new upholstery and sprayhood. OK so the decks had yet to be cleaned from the collected grime of the boat-yard and the dusty cabin remained true to the month in the sandy Red Sea - but at least we were more or less ready to depart.

Not only was it great to see Mark again after nearly 3 1/2 years, but as a bonus he also bought spares for the stove and a pilot guide to Greek waters. Mark set-to dismantling the stove and soon returned it to full working order with two reliably functioning burners rather than the one I'd be struggling with for the last few weeks. He also arrived with an embryonic cruising plan - something I'd been too busy too even consider. It would be a full-on two weeks - island-hoping through the Aegean Sea to the Corinth Canal then making our way into the Ionian Sea where I'd meet my next crew. Ambitious but achievable, especially with two ocean-hardened sailors onboard.

A slight complication was where to make our first port of call. Ideally we'd head straight to Greece but after consulting a few of the yard's old hands, it appeared that arriving directly from northern Cyprus would be a significant risk, with scenarios ranging from delays, fines, or even having Kika impounded. Greece doesn't recognize northern Cyprus as a legitimate country, and refers to the presence of Turkish troops in the north as an illegal occupation. The safe option is to head to Greece via Turkey. We decided to play safe and set a waypoint to Kemer Marina on Turkey's south coast.Three of us set off from Girne/Kryenia. Our third crew member, Oscar, joined us for the trip to Turkey. Oscar has learnt to sail in dinghies and his enthusiastic questioning reminded us of our first ventures onto the water. For example, Oscar was used to helming while holding the mainsheet so that it can be released the instant a gust hits the sail. On Kika the main is cleated-off and despite my reassurances about the keel preventing dinghy like capsizes, he kept close to the sheet should an unanticipated squall approach.Unfortunately we needed more assistance from the engine than emergency sail easing, although the calm conditions gave me an opportunity to reinstall the autopilot which had been re-engineered by northern Cyprus's finest machinist. After struggling with the pilot for the last-half of the Red Sea it was magical to see the wheel turning automatically again. Sadly my celebratory dance of joy around the deck proved premature as shortly afterwards the over-current protection switch tripped and Kika circled back towards Cyprus. Optimistically I reset the switch and crossed my fingers, but once again the pilot cut-out after a few minutes of holding a course. Time to rethink. The repair had replaced the worn Lucas motor (used as a windscreen wiper motor in Landrovers) and replaced it with a Bosch motor (used as a windscreen wiper motor in Mercedes cars). I measured the current draw of the new motor verses the original and sure enough the more substantial replacement drew almost twice the current. Time to rethink, it appeared my options would be to either use the gearing of the Bosch motor on the old motor, or upgrade the electronics to cope with the power-demands of the replacement. Swallowing spiders to eat flies or pulling threads and ending up with an unraveled cloth, started to cloud my optimism. Still at least the pilot would work for a few minutes, a marked improvement and could be used while cooking, putting the fenders out or climbing the rigging to check the path ahead.

The 28 hour trip to Turkey was uneventful, mostly motoring interspersed with a few hours of sailing. We did our best to give Oscar the full sailing experience the highlight being dolphins swimming off the bow but the excitement of the day must have worn him out as despite our best ship light identification tuition, he seemed quite happy to sleep through the night watches. I let him off as he'd praised my tortilla as even better than his father's (sorry Julian).

We arrived mid-morning in the marina and I hoped we'd be able to leave the same day for Greece. I explained to the marina official that we'd arrived from northern Cyprus, wanted to check-in and check-out of Turkey on the same day with the additional complication that Oscar would be leaving the boat. Her face dropped with horror at the thought of the endless forms and slow-moving Turkish bureaucracy she'd have to help us negotiate. "But why did you come to Turkey?" [and create all this work for me] "Ah northern Cyprus? I see..."

Half an hour later I headed into the marina office to check on progress and found the marina staff carefully studying a fax. As they saw me enter, they began to quiz me. "What were your last 10 ports of call, and dates", as I reeled them off, they checked with the fax and consulted each other. What was going on? I started to feel a little apprehensive. Had Interpol sent out a "reward for the capture of this vessel" bulletin? Firmly and slightly worriedly they said we all needed to head back to the boat, remain on the boat and if anyone asks we haven't left the boat. I racked my brain for any misdemeanour which might solicit such a change in tone, but although I was convinced of my innocence, couldn't help but feel anxious. Amanda arrived while we were imprisoned onboard, and fortunately soon afterwards a face-mask wearing port health official turned-up and the reason for our confinement became clear. One by one, we were invited off the boat, given face-masks and our temperature taken. Fortunately we were all within the healthy range, and deemed clear of swine flu.

I rushed around trying to organise the check-in/check-out, 3rd party insurance for Kika (which I'd learnt on the trip over was essential for Greek cruising), transfer money between accounts and take on water and food. Our first Greek anchorage was 75 miles away, perfect for a night sail, and our ambitious plan didn't allow for bureaucratic delays. Mark seemed slightly bemused by my manic activity and gently hinted that one option would be to relax and stay the night. Relax? Did he think we were on holiday? Reluctantly I accepted the inevitable and we planned instead to leave first thing in the morning.

Frustratingly it wasn't until mid-day that we finally left, replenished with food, beer, water, fuel and the all important Turkish clearance. We left with a head-wind which resolutely followed our course around each head-land. As the day progressed, the difficulties of a night entry into Kastellorizo become apparent, and my sea-legs started to feel shaky while I was down-below making raspberry jam steamed pudding. Scanning the chart I found an anchorage on the Turkish coast where we could rest and cover the remaining 20 miles in the morning. Mark enthusiastically endorsed the change of plan and we arrived with just enough light to see our way into the anchorage.

13/5/09, Kemer: N 36deg 36' E30deg 34'
14/5/09, Night anchorage: N36deg 12.6' W29deg 53.7'