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


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