You travel all around the world (or in our case only across the med so far) to experience new tastes and cultures but there's something strangely reassuring about being back on British soil for a little while, with British supermarkets and X factor. OK, so we've not been missing X factor but at least I know who everyone is talking about on Facebook now on a Saturday evening! So, our trip to Gibraltar. We reckon it will take us about 23 hours to get there (give or take), so if we leave at 11am, we would be negotiating the bay and all it's traffic during the day. What we didn't account for was the speed at which Pegasus travels with the wind on her back (I told you it was a steep learning curve!) and we keep reducing sail as much as we can but our speed over ground is still 8 knots with all our reefs in and a handkerchief for a headsail.
"Hmmm. At this rate, we'll be in Gibraltar at 4 in the morning" I joke. Not funny. We do literally fly all the way to Gibraltar and the AIS (equipment that tells us where all the big boats are) is looking busy. As it is 4 in the morning, there is what can only be described as a "car park" of tankers just outside the bay - possibly 12 or so just milling around, waiting for opening hours in the bay. Mark and I are both up from 2am on look out. It is pouring with rain - and it's really difficult to see anything. Apparently Gibraltar rock is unmistakeable, even at night. We can't see anything, except the lighthouse on the end - always a bonus. As we turn into the bay, the wind picks up, rather than sheltering us as we hoped, and the rain is sideways. We are both soaked through - literally - whilst the kids are toasty and warm inside - as we negotiate the traffic inside the bay - HUGE tankers loom over us. There are so many red, green and white lights around that I don't know how on earth we are going to find the marina. And then we see Morrisons - big yellow letters welcome us - and then I know where we are! We head back down a little and find the entrance to the marina. It is now 7.30 in the morning and the marina doesn't open for another hour. Lochy wakes up to see all the big ships and Mia sleeps through it all until we are nicely moored up inside the marina - 13 hours of sleep!
We are parked at the bottom of the big rock, apparently. We haven't seen the top yet, but hopefully, later this week, we will be able to go up in the cable car and visit the apes. Mia and Lochy met a new friend who took them bowling on Sunday whilst we attempted to dry out the boat and caught up on our laundry. I'll write more about Gibraltar later this week - That's enough for the time being!
There were no red arrows when we left Ibiza and for the first couple of hours we had a lovely sail on a broad reach SW to Formentera, a little island just off Ibiza. We would have liked to have anchored there for one night, but once again time is pushing on and we need to get to Gibraltar. I love doing proper sailing. Where the wind is on the back of the boat and the swell is going in the same direction. Pegasus literally feels like she is flying and I've got a big grin on my face. Mark has warned me once about saying "this is nice." In the past, it has been followed by a change of sea condition or wind or direction (which consequently means change of sea condition and wind.) Once we turned the corner, the wind was on our nose. For those who don't know anything about sailing, you can't sail directly into the direction from which the wind is blowing. You just have to haul the sails in and sail 'close to the wind' - as close as you can. It turns out, that on a catamaran, close isn't very close, but at least we aren't heeling madly over like we would if we were on one of those boats that only have one bit in the water. We can still leave our cups of tea on the table - astonishing!
A little while back, I had said to Mark "you know, we have to accept that we can't always point in the direction we want to go and stick the engine on. We have to accept it will take a bit longer and tack (zig zag) our way to our destination." So, we dug our heels in, accepted the nauseating swell coming from in front of us, and tacked for 6 hours. When we saw that, on the chart, we had hardly moved in 6 hours, we put the engines on and pointed in the direction we wanted to go. This tacking could wait for another day.
Since we had now lost time and wouldn't be in our destination port in daylight, we decided to push on through as Mark and I were finding the night watches fine. Actually, if the truth be known, I LOVE night watches - we had an amazing bright red full moon rising over the horizon, shooting stars, phosphorescence. Kids snoring loudly in the saloon, audio books on the Ipod.
One of the days we were sailing, we were visited by a helicopter who did a full circle around our boat and got close enough for the kids to see the passenger in the back seat waving to them. "Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave." We think they might have been military or coastguards who were seeing whether we looked like drugs smugglers or not. We've been told that there is a lot of smuggling in this area, so we may be visited by coastguards. Make mental note, keep boat more tidy!
We were also visited by whales and a sunfish - the weirdest looking circular fish that flops along the surface with one fin and an eye looking up at you. If someone in Greece hadn't told us about them we wouldn't have had a CLUE what it was.
We arrive in Motril, on the Costa del Sol, in a little marina, at first light. It feels great to have put some miles in, even if it was very uncomfortable and by motor. And it felt even better to have a hot shower as we haven't been in a marina since Palma, so have had to make do with bucket washes. Motril has a strange little marina, with lovely facilities but hardly any boats - we are the biggest boat here. There seems to be a grain depot here so large cargo ships come in to load and unload. The wind looks good for Gibraltar tomorrow - Easterly for one day (good) then Westerly again the day after (not so good) so we only stay long enough to pick up some food and plan our passage ahead.
It's a steep learning curve this sailing malarky. Reading GRIB files for weather looks straight forward enough but we have subsequently learnt that on a weather report, red arrows are not good. In fact they are positively bad. Apparently, they mean strong winds. We knew that of course, but we didn't think they would be THAT strong. And relentless. For 11 hours. Then the winds died down to a respectable 20 (even that's quite strong) and we could put up a bit of sail and enjoy the rest of the sail to Ibiza. Mark and I were exhausted. When we asked the kids what they thought of the trip, they replied "great Mum" so clearly, they didn't experience any of the feelings I had had. But then they had been cosy inside, watching star wars and didn't see the ropes securing the dinghy snap and have to recover it, like we did! It was interesting to note that the power of communication was completely lost to me as I tried to tell him what had happened. "THE.......THE.......THE.........THE.........DINGHY" was about all I could manage. Anyway, we still have the dinghy, so it was all alright after all. But we did learn that we don't like red arrows.
Luckily the wind died down in time for us to pick up a buoy and the sun was only just setting, so that was uneventful, and we are parked just next to a large black boat with a helicopter and speed boat on top of it. Ibiza seems to be made of money. There are lots of expensive looking clothes boutiques in the marina, but no one sells cooking gas. And there are no big dogs, only little lap dogs. But it's a pretty town, although a LONG walk from where we are moored.
We are waiting for less strong winds so we can head onto Spain. In the meantime, we have had fun exploring caves, playing on the beach, and learning Spanish, so Adios for now xx
It's hard to get internet here - we didn't realise how much we were addicted to it until we couldn't get it (actually we did have a fair idea!!) Thanks to Cath's mum chatting to someone at a wedding who had a mooring buoy in D'Andratx, we are now here which is on the West Coast of Mallorca. We couldn't go straight away as the owner said it was not very sheltered on a Westerly wind which was what it was most of last week, but on Thursday we decided to go. We learnt a few lessons about the trip. Firstly, we thought it was a little jaunt around the corner, but it took us 6 hours and we arrived in dark. However, we were really pleased that our navigational skills were put to the test at night and we succeeded in coming into a harbour using lights to guide us and we found the mooring buoy first time (well, actually it's two buoys down, but none of them are being used and this one seems a safer one!)
Apart from the fact that there is an uncanny number of 'dead' tenders half floating in the harbour (and a ship wrecked yacht) it's pretty here and we are getting a taste of what it is like to be out at anchor rather than in the shelter of a marina. It's fine, the wind generator is whizzing around and if we are careful, we can keep the fridge going and use lights/have music etc with just wind and solar panel - cool!!
So, tomorrow we are heading to Ibiza - it should take between 11 and 14 hours and we have decided to leave at midnight tomorrow so the kids will be asleep for some of it and the winds will be best. We will probably be in Ibiza main town on the East coast, again on mooring buoy.
The kids have been excited about the nature here - Lochy set up a bird hide - we spotted a Grey heron, Small egret and cormorant. Also, we saw loads of jellyfish of which we managed to catch one and the kids enjoyed inspecting it, writing about it and drawing it. We later found out it was a Mauve stinger, so pleased that we didn't let Lochy touch it when he asked to prod it with his finger!!
I cut Mark and the kids' hair today and none of them will need a trip to the hairdressers to rectify the damage, so that's a success, although Mark was not instilled with confidence when my first comment was "oh **** I didn't realise it would be that short!!" Mia's was the easiest, straight cut across the back.
After Ibiza for a couple of days, we will head along the coast of Spain, hopping as we go, but if the winds are good, we will head asap to Gib as we really need to avoid Westerlys which would be on our nose, so if we get anything else, we will go as far as we can.
We'll probably be in Gib for a while from 28nd November, and then we are really hoping to be Madeira for Christmas and New Year as it is supposed to be lovely there.
So, that's our plan for the time being - as you know, it may well change, but we need to push on so won't be staying in Ibiza for long.
11/06/2010, Lefkas to Palma
Yeeehaaaa! We made it!! We can sail. Pegasus can float. The kids can find their sea legs. And all the other concerns I may have had before we left have been dispelled in a wonderful 8 day sail across the Med. Don't ask about the bit before we set sail - the stress of getting ready for the off/ customs - (don't know why I bothered - it's a story within itself but luckily it's now out of my mind) misplacing Mark's passport / connecting the nav lights five minutes before we leave. All that is out of my mind and I will concentrate on the first leg of our journey.
We left Lefkas just before 2pm so we could pass through the bridge on the hour. Didn't get the chance to say goodbye and thank you to everyone we wanted to, especially Kevan, Mark and Sharkey and everyone else who helped us on our boat before we left (what a friendly marina!), but in the end we just had to go or we were at risk of getting marina rot! Waving us off were Milly and Will who had been wonderful friends for Mia and Lochy in the week before we left, their parents, and Carol of Wild Bird and I felt strangely emotional; I suppose not surprising as we had been in Lefkas for 8 weeks.
Through the bridge and everyone is excited. Half an hour into being in the open sea and Mia gets seasick - as I expected. Lochy did too. I didn't see that one coming which would explain why I was clearing up projectile vomit in the cabin an hour into the trip, whilst Mia was being sick neatly into the bucket. Two hours into the trip and one of the engines makes a very funny noise as though a bag has wrapped around its propellor. A bag has wrapped around its propellor. Mark gets into the dinghy in an attempt to clear it with a stick, but it's clear that someone has to go in. Phill isn't offering (and why should he as it's not his boat?!!). So Mark strips to his boxers and snorkel and mask and goes in to unwrap the offending item. I am so proud of him. Diving under a boat in the ocean isn't on his list of top 10 things to do. I would be shouting words of encouragement to him only by this time I am chucking up into a bucket and I don't even get sea sick!
But then the kids fall asleep though general excitement/ exhaustion / seasickness and I feel better and Phill, Mark and I get into a routine of a watch system. I really did get the easy part. Phill and Mark did 3 hours on 3 hours off through the night and I came on at 7am to do mother watch - basically allow the guys to sleep and getting food ready.
Before you report me to social services, can I say that the kids found their sea legs very quickly. Lochy the next day and Mia a bit longer as we then went though a bit of a rough 48 hours of force 7/8. We were really pleased that Pegasus saw us through with no bother at all - she made us feel very safe and solid - though we had to get used to being slapped between the hulls with waves - something monohulls wouldn't know about!
Mia soon learnt that being outside on the helm was the best place to be and both she and Lochy were happy to wear their harness and lifelines to keep safe. When the swell was particularly large (about 3 metres?) Mia was singing "I can ride my boat with no handlebars" and we were surfing down the waves with our hands in the air.
Highlights of this passage:
1)Two little sparrows landing on the boat (and one on my head!!) and coming into the cabin to shelter - we called them Milly and Will!
2)Amazing nightskies. The kids would wake up at about 7am and it would still be dark so we would all huddle outside and look at the constellations and see shooting stars. There was also phosphorescence off the stern of the boat - glowing algae. So on bonfire night we had shooting stars, phosphorescence, and a lightening storm in the distance so we had the fireworks covered!
Wonderful sunrises and sunsets and a moonrise.
3)Dolphins on four of our 8 days, sometimes for half an hour at a time. We would lie on the trampoline and watch them dance on our bow.
4)On day 5 of our trip when I was beginning to wonder what to cook, Lochy asked if he could fish, we put out a lure (Thanks Tom of Monstertackle.com!!!!)at 11am and by 6pm had caught a gigantic yellow finned tuna - no idea how much it weighed but it was 90cm long!!! Mark cut it up with a hacksaw into 14 thick steaks which I vacuum sealed immediately and we've been eating ever since!!! We even recovered Lochy's lucky lure but wouldn't let him put it in again!!!
5)baking the best loaf of bread I have ever made and mark baking fantastic shortbread
So that is pretty much it!! Phill was great in whipping us into shape and getting the boat ready; in giving us confidence to make us realise we CAN do this. Although Mark bought her into Palma this morning, it was still great to have Phill guiding us and reassuring us and tutoring us as we went, even doing a man overboard practise on a fender and bucket whilst in the middle of the Med.
I am on such a high. So proud of us as a family. So proud of the kids settling so easily into a routine of life at sea. Reassured to know that I could have kept going for another 3 weeks if I had to (but I know Phill's wife and kids wouldn't have been too happy with us if we had!!) It feels quite surreal actually as Phill left for the airport within an hour of us arriving and it's back to just us, the Jackson Four. He's told us we should buy some more of those paper things that have pretty pictures of the sea and land - charts, I think they're called. We didn't have any when he arrived and I suppose they were quite useful!!
So, a few days in Palma with a huge list of things we need to do but some can wait til we get to Gibralter. Tuna for dinner I think. Night all. Love Catherine xxx
I don't know where the time goes to but it's over 10 days since the last blog, but now that Phill has arrived we haven't had time to sit in an internet cafe and chat chat chat. Phill is from Jersey and is going to take us through our yachtsmaster practical whilst we bomb out of the med.
I don't want you to think I'm obsessed about the mast but I have been up again, this time repairing the AIS arial and heh presto it now works - so if you go onto http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/ and look at Lefkada, Greece, you'll see our position when we are at sea (it only works if we have it turned on!). It's cool as you can see how we track through the Med. It doesn't work all the way across oceans but we can see big boats and more importantly big boats can see us. So, putting a VHS antennnae connector is another string to my bow.
Mark has been busy making fibreglass shelves to put batteries on and connecting up the chartplotter, VHF remote and other electrical things.
The kids were delighted that it has been half term and so there have been some British children around the marina. They spent all day playing with new friends yesterday, only popping back for food which meant we could crack on.
So, back to Phill. He has really given us a shake up regarding the sailing aspect of our trip. Taking us through our storm jib and nav lights (er, I think you might need to get some tomorrow!) planning passages (er, I think you might need some charts for Malta tomorrow) etc etc. It's great to really have the pressure on to get sailing because I think there was a risk of us all getting marina rot!
I'm not sure I wanted the kids' first experience to be 7 or 8 days at sea in October weather, but we don't really have much choice and having had 2 weeks of thunder lightening and rain we seem to be facing a calm window of weather. At least they have had a bath (see photo!) So, I have been planning 7 days of menus (anyone who really knows me knows that cooking is not my thing but I am learning to add more seasoning and double my portions!) and today's jobs is to take the bike trailer to the supermarket and stock up whilst Mark and Phill get the sails back from the repair shop, hopefully with a cruising chute bought too. Then it's off to the Port police to check out and we'll be off the blog for a little while (but on AIS!!) Hope you are all well, love Catherine x