First Light adventures

15 October 2016 | Gibraltar
02 October 2016 | Almerimar
08 September 2015 | Menorca
02 September 2015
25 August 2015 | Argostoli, Kefalonia
28 July 2015 | Preveza
15 September 2014 | Cabo St Lucas
21 August 2014 | Albania
14 August 2014 | Kotor Montenegro
04 August 2014 | Montenegro
31 July 2014 | Cavtat, Croatia
29 July 2014 | Prozura bay
26 July 2014 | Vis Island
17 July 2014 | Ilovik- Iz Island
15 July 2014 | Croatia
12 July 2014 | Zadar
10 July 2014 | Kosarine Bay, Murter Island

Almerimar to Gibraltar

15 October 2016 | Gibraltar
The spectacular view of Gibraltar from our marina berth

Sailing to Gibraltar
We were so excited and relieved to be finally out of the marina in Almerimar and on our way. We still had a list of jobs to do, but none were important enough to stay in Almerimar. We had to make miles in order to meet Simon in Gibraltar in the second week of October.

Once in Gibraltar, Di will leave the boat and visit Simon´s wife Noelia and grandson Max in Palma Mallorca. Bern will complete prep work on the boat and Simon will join him for the 800nm sail to the Canary islands in the Atlantic. Simon will fly to France for the start of the Vendee Globe solo around the world race to farewell Alex Thomson sailing the yacht Hugo Boss. Simon has been the naval architect responsible for the build of this state of the art yacht. In November, Simon, Noelia and Max will join First Light III in the Canary Islands for the Atlantic crossing then through the Panama canal and across the Pacific to Australia. The whole trip is approximately 14,000 miles and is expected to take about 9 months.

But back to the present.
We escaped from Almerimar marina late morning and thought of sailing overnight straight through to Gibraltar, but the forecast strong headwinds helped us choose a protected port for the night. As the sun was going down, we arrived in marina Del Este, a quaint little marina tucked in behind a large rock/island a stones throw off the coast. The next day it was much the same, we did a bit of sailing and ended up in Fuengirola marina late in the day. An early start had us pointing directly for the rock of Gibraltar. By mid- morning we could just see the shape of the rock appear through the haze and a couple of hours later the high mountains of Morocco appeared on the other side of the straits of Gibraltar. Nothing really prepares you for the sheer size and shape of the rock. We rounded the most southern point of the rock smack into a 25 knot plus wind. It was pretty choppy due to the wind being against the tide. We were soon around and heading north into the bay and La Linea marina on the Spanish side.
Di left First Light III on the 13th Oct. It was an emotional farewell. There are many miles of ocean for Bern to cross before we see each other again.

Back onboard for the next adventure. Spain to Australia

15 October 2016 | Almerimar
Hard at it in Almerimar
After nearly 12 months, we finally arrived back to First Light lll in the middle of September. After all this time, she was looking quite forlorn and neglected covered in red dust blown in from Morocco! We immediately noticed the wind instruments at the top of the mast were not moving in the wind...a bad sign! Bern had a long list of jobs that seemed to grow daily and over the past three weeks he has been extremely busy working away and ticking them off in preparation for the long trip home.

We spent three days on the hardstand and were really pleased when the hull came out quite clean after nearly 12 months in the water. The antifouling paint had done a good job, or should we give credit to the fish in the marina that seemed to work their way from one boat to the next nibbling at growth on the hull. Another fish story!! But the propeller was not so clean, it had a dozen oysters attached. So with a couple of coats of anti-foul applied, a clean prop and fresh anodes it was back in the water. In hindsight, of all the jobs to be completed this has been the easiest and by far the most straightforward.

We had planned to be out of the marina in a few weeks and on our way to Gibraltar, but we have been seriously held up waiting for parts to be serviced and returned. Bern´s theory is that the Spanish siesta is partly to blame. The courier services don´t work in the afternoon, as most business´ close between 2 and 5.30pm for the siesta, so if a part is not delivered in the morning it will be the next day...or the next!!!! We sent the autopilot hydraulic ram off to be serviced, but after two weeks it was not back, so we started hassling the guy that sent it off. We finally got it back but it was so tight that it was not usable, so back it went for them to have another go! The turnaround this time was a couple of days and the ram was nice and free.

With the ram installed, the new autopilot installation and sea trials could be done. We eventually got new bearings for the masthead unit under warranty and it was back in service. EPIRBS had new batteries fitted and we started provisioning with food, first aid kits updated, the dodger re-stitched with the addition of a much needed opening added plus a myriad of other jobs ticked off. We were finally ready to head out. After weeks of good easterly winds that would have carried us the 120nm to Gibraltar, they turned to westerly ´on the nose´ but fortunately fairly light.

sailblog test message

02 October 2016 | Almerimar
Testing all HF and modem functions

Sailing down the Spanish coast

25 September 2015
The 'Plastic Coast'!Over 14,000 Ha of Greenhouses!!

With good NE-E winds forecast for the next few days we set off from Cartagena just before dawn, further south down the coast to Port Garrucha en route to Almerimar our final destination for the season. The steep cliff faces along the coast are quite majestic, but what struck us more were the acres and acres of plastic sheeting that were obviously green houses. The further we travelled along the coast the more concentrated are these green houses. Apparently they supply a lot of Europe with vegetables.
This part of the coast is referred to as the Costa Blanco and then it becomes the Costa Sol. In places the rock faces along the coast line with the sun shining reflect a whitish colour, but one wonders if it hasn’t been named for all the white holiday apartment blocks that crowd the coastline all the way down to Almerimar. The information in the Pilot Guide tells that these resorts are popular all year round with Scandinavians and Germans. Some are tastefully built, with their domed roofs and Palm trees they look quite North African. However, many are not and remind us of all the ‘concrete box’ holiday apartments that have destroyed the look of the Turkish coastline.
With light winds we motor all the way to Port Garrucha. On our approach we look for the masts that will indicate the marina and how popular it is, and if there would be room for us for an overnight stay. Using the binoculars Bern finally spots one or two in the northern part. We carefully navigate the shallow entrance and as our calls on the radio are ignored we spot a guy waving us in and then realize he is the Marineiro! We need not have been concerned, the marina is almost empty. It is brand new and has the air of not being finished, and compared to the marina in Cartagena, it certainly lacks character. It is a working harbour and loads of Gypsum, which is mined nearby, are loaded onto ships and taken away. We are a little put off when we find that it is more expensive to stay here than back at lovely Cartagena, so we are glad it is just for the night. We are even more grateful that our stay is short when the local fishing boats return at night and come charging into the harbour at speed, sending a huge wash straight into the marina. As well, the marina is open to the S- SE so any bad weather from that direction can send in a swell. All obvious reasons why there is hardly anyone staying here!
After a quiet night we leave on dawn and head off on the last 60nm for the season to Puerto Almerimar. Bern’s plans to head across the Atlantic have been put on hold for the moment due to his health problems at the beginning of the season. So we have decided to winter the boat in a marina in Almerimar and consider our options for next season, while we are back home.
We enjoy another light sailing day and flat water!! With the strong currents in this area it takes a long time to get around Cabo Gato with its significant white piece of rock in the middle of the dark surrounds, and even longer to make progress towards Almerimar. We finally arrive at the marina early evening and after check-in are given what seems like a good safe berth for the winter. It is a popular place to winter boats and there is an active live aboard community here throughout the winter. The marina holds about 1000 boats and about 400 on the hard stand so is quite large. It is surrounded by restaurants and apartment blocks which seem mostly empty -someone’s vision not fulfilled. There is a great supermarket within walking distance so will be useful while we are here packing up and putting First Light III to bed.

Overnighter to Cartagena, Spain

17 September 2015
A view over Cartagena from the castle

With the weather swinging to the NE we decided it would be the right time to head west to Cartagena on the Spanish coast. It is a 150nm passage and we decided to up anchor late morning which would get us to our destination at a similar time the following day. However when we went to pull the anchor up, it was obvious it was stuck on something and was not coming up no matter what we tried on the surface. Bern would normally have dived on it to see what was going on, but with his recent ear problems diving was out of the question. The decision was made to contact a local dive company. They could dive on the anchor and free it at a staggering price (the cost of a new anchor!!!!) and not till early evening! So Bern thought of finding someone in the anchorage who might help us out for half the price of the Dive Company and still come ‘out on top’. He didn’t have to go far. An Italian guy on a cruiser next to us was happy to help us out. He tried a few things first using his dinghy which we knew wouldn’t work, but the subtleties get lost in translation, when you don’t speak the same language. We were thrilled when he put on his dive suit and tank and was prepared to have another go! Within a few minutes of his first dive he came up and told us to start hauling up the chain. Bingo! Up came the anchor. Judging from the diver’s sign language we think the chain was wrapped around a large rock. As further evidence the pointy end of the anchor is now a little warped, as if it has had a decent work over.
By late afternoon we finally headed out of Cala Talamanca Bay, Ibiza just five hours later than expected, but confident we would still make Cartagena by late the next day. As we motor sailed past Formantera Island the wind started to increase from astern, as did the seas which at times hit us beam on, as well as from behind. There wasn’t enough wind to carry the main in the confused seas without the boom slamming around, so on night fall the main was dropped and the jib poled out and we motored sailed with that configuration for most of the way. It was a fast downwind ride with large waves and a favourable current pushing us forward towards Catragena. By late morning the following day we spotted the coast of Spain and by mid afternoon approx 22 hours after we had left Ibiza, we had arrived at our destination and tied up in the marina at Yacht Port Cartagena. The cork on the customary bottle of champers to celebrate arriving at a new port and a new coastline was popped and went down extremely well. A good night’s sleep was had by all that night!
We thoroughly enjoyed the city of Carthagena. Someone has put a good deal of thought into the planning and lay out of the city. The generous marble walkways, plazas and architecture are extremely interesting and well maintained. While we were there it was Fiesta week celebrating the historical battles of the Punic Wars between the Romans and Carthagnians that occurred between 300-200BC. The re-enactments of the various battles takes place over ten days, so there were many people walking around day and night dressed up like Romans and their adversaries. Each night a different story of the battle was played out on a stage not far from the marina. Some nights there were fireworks to finish off the evening. As well, we enjoyed the various museums and particularly enjoyed visiting the air raid shelters built to shelter the locals during the Spanish Civil war during the late 1930’s. Cartagena was a ‘hotbed’ for the Republicans fighting against Franco and his army and thus a prime target for the bombings that took place. During our stay here we enjoyed great tapas 1.80 Euro for a lovely glass of wine and a dish of tasty and quite substantial serves of nibbles. The large natural port at Cartagena has been a naval base for hundreds of years and has been building naval vessels and submarines. Many of the hills around the city have the remains of fortifications. We had a memorable five days here and could easily have stayed longer.

Sailing the Balearic Islands

08 September 2015 | Menorca
Things that could go bump in the night - read on!

The Balearic islands consist of Menorca, Mallorca and Ibeza. Known as the home to the rich and famous and the infamous developer the late Christopher Skase who fled authorities in Australia in the late 80's.

After anchoring in Mahon on Menorca Is., we dinghied into town to have a look around. It was Sunday afternoon and there was hardly a soul to be seen. After visiting an information centre, we learned that a weekly ferry sailed to Mallorca from Mahon on Sunday. A quick decision was made that Di would catch this ferry so she could babysit Simon and Noelia's little boy Max (our third grandchild, that Di had not yet seen) while he had his nursery school orientation the following week.

Di spent a few days in Mallorca while Bern remained onboard doing maintenance. Di flew back to Menorca on Thursday and we prepared for an early departure the next morning for the 63nm sail to Mallorca. In the early hours of the morning Bern noticed a catamaran had anchored so close to us that we were in danger of hitting it. After getting the attention of the occupants of the yacht, Bern expressed his concerns only to be told, to put fenders out and just let your insurance Co. handle it!! Bern started the engine and backed back to demonstrate to the skipper that there was indeed a considerable overlap and we would definitely collide. Bern was then accused of having too much chain out (we actually had the minimum for the depth). Clearly we were dealing with someone whose arrogance was only exceeded by his lack of competence, he then proceeded to call me an a...hole, what do you do? He was not going to move. We once heard some good advice for situations like this. SO.... out came the camera and flash, flash, flash, we had evidence in case we had to deal with an insurance company. Surprisingly it worked; they got the message and finally moved.
Early next morning we departed the anchorage in pitch darkness and headed off to Mallorca. We actually had one of our best sails in the Med and managed to sail most of the way there. We decided to pull into Carla D'Or a small inlet on the east coast with a marina. There we were able to meet up with Simon, Noelia and Max before leaving for the 90nm sail to Ibeza. The wind had been blowing a strong SW before we departed and was forecast to moderate and swing to the NW. It's always risky heading out immediately after a blow as the seas are generally still up...and they were! We wanted to go SW so the wind was on the nose and remained there for most of the day, no NW. After bashing to windward for hour after hour, you understand why they say 'gentlemen don't sail to windward". Ladies also don't like sailing to windward, Di disappeared below early on with a seasickness tablet and assumed the foetal prayer position! Fortunately the conditions slowly moderated and 3 m waves went down to 2 m waves then to half metre by the early hours of the morning. We arrived in an anchorage on Ibiza still in the dark and picked our way through a lot of anchored yachts before finally dropping the anchor and crashing. We plan to spend a few days here waiting for another SW blow to pass, then sail to the mainland of Spain.
Vessel Name: First Light III
Vessel Make/Model: Adams 12
Hailing Port: Melbourne Australia
Crew: Bernie
About: Bernie is passionate about sailing and finally living his dream to cruise long term. Dianne is First Mate and looking forward to many adventures along the way.
First Light III was fitted out and equipped by Bernie and launched in 2004. She is a fractional rigged cutter with a good turn of speed. Specification: Length 12 m. Beam 4m. Draught 2.2m Displacement 7500Kg Engine Yanmar 39HP Saildrive HF radio with email capability High capacity ECH2O [...]
First Light III's Photos - Main
Photos from NC and Vanuatu
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Created 14 May 2009

First Light 111 Adventures

Who: Bernie
Port: Melbourne Australia