A Ripping Yarn!
12 November 2012 | Barbate, Atlantic coast of Spain
Belinda and Kit
Current Position: 36° 11.06N 005.56.01W, Barbate Marina, Atlantic Spain
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Well, we waited and waited in La Linea, studying the weather files, but there seemed to be no let up in the lows coming across the Atlantic - the Azores high pressure system, normally in place at this time of year and which should give us fair winds, wasn't there!! The wind blew (from the wrong direction) and we had torrential rain - no fun when you're anchored out. The only comfort was that we were not the only yacht waiting; Alison and Geoff on 'Saraoni' were nearby and also watching the forecasts hopefully, and we'd met several others in Gibraltar and La Linea who were waiting to head off south. We were even more anxious to be on the move as Helen and Lou will be on Lanzarote on 17th November and we hope be there to meet them!
Finally the long range forecast showed a possible weather window. We went into Alcaidesa Marina in La Linea for a few days to fill up the water tanks, catch up with the washing and stock up with fresh food for the passage. Whilst we were there we had a welcome visit from Jane and Clive (yacht JaneG), who had driven from Almerimar to drop a friend off at Malaga airport and decided to come and see us. We spent a lovely day with them, catching up with news and taking our minds off the long wait!
We finally left Gibraltar on Tuesday 6th November to sail direct to Graciosa, north of Lanzarote, a passage of around 5 days. We'd abandoned the plan to visit Morocco as the winds and swell looked favourable and we didn't want to risk being stuck again.
Ahhh... the best laid plans.......
Having filled up with diesel (only 86p per litre in Gib!!!) we sailed out into the Strait - and promptly ran into strong squalls! Visibility was nil in the rain so our new AIS earned its keep!
For the uninitiated, AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a collision avoidance system that gives information about all the shipping in your area, their speed and courses, the closest point of approach and how to contact them (name, callsign, MMSI number). All large ships have this system but not all yachts. We have just installed a 'transponder' type so that not only can we 'see' them, but they can also 'see' us. We had to call up one fast Ferry that was heading for Gibraltar as he was doing 23 knots on a collision course with Quilcene! It was quite a relief when he altered course to pass astern of us!
The wind was behind us and we punched against the tide for the first two hours along the Strait. It was windy, wet and horrible weather to be out in but our sail was reefed down and we were keen to get further south for a bit of sun! There were eight yachts all heading our way and we were in VHF radio contact with one or two even if we couldn't always see them!
We turned at Tarifa to cross the shipping lanes at 90° and head over to the Moroccan coast. As we turned the wind shifted too, the boom slammed over and the mainsail ripped straight across! We'd pulled in the main sheet to stop that very thing happening so maybe the sail was weak anyway. Wow! What a shock! We quickly turned Quilcene into the wind and waves in order to pull down the useless flapping sail. Kit went on to the deck and managed to get it tied down - no easy feat as the boat was lurching in the swell - and we turned back on course.
There was no going back to Gibraltar at this point (we didn't really want to anyway) as the tide was running west down the Strait by then. All we could do was to carry on 20 miles to Barbate on the Atlantic coast of Spain.
What is it called? - 'Sod's Law'? - after Tarifa the wind was lighter, the rain eased and the west going tide had picked up - we were doing 8 knots! ...and we could see the NW corner of Morocco where the sky cleared toward evening!! We had to watch the other yachts disappear into the south!
We checked into Barbate marina and next day, despite a NE gale, we managed to get the sail off and find a sailmaker in Barbate (Jesus - pronounced 'Heysous') who could repair it. We'll have to start thinking about a new mainsail as it's quite old now and we had a smaller tear in 2009. Looking at the prices tho' we'll need to win the lottery first!!
We had two more miserable days of wind and heavy showers when we mostly stayed on the boat. The marina here is a bit bleak and not as well protected as it looks - quite a chop works its way in. Quilcene sat in a 'cats cradle' of mooring ropes but she still rocked around a lot. We walked into town between showers, passing the industrial fishing yard where we saw hundreds of large anchors. These are used to anchor the tuna nets to the seabed - Barbate is the 'tuna capital' of Spain and in spring and autumn this is the major occupation here, as it has been throughout history.
Jesus brought the sail back (not a miracle cure but in one piece again!) and on Saturday (10th) the sun shone (hurrah!) and we fitted it so Quilcene is all ready to go!
Unfortunately we have now missed our weather window for the Canaries passage and we're back to forecast watching. Meantime life on board goes on as usual and we keep busy. Kit is fitting our new Pactor Modem (a device to enable us to get weather reports and emails through the SSB radio whilst out on the Ocean). I've just finished making the new dinghy cover, and we both have the usual ongoing maintenance to keep up with whilst we wait again for favourable conditions - we live in hope!!!