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'