We got a bad jam in the mainsail last night after furling it in a squall, it went in OK but after the squall had passed we couldn't get it out again. This morning I had to go up the mast to help it out, something I've done a few times before but never in strong winds or seas. Few heart stopping moments when I lost grip on the mast and flew around the stays but managed OK and the sail is good again.
In a hope to improve the autopilot I 'got under the bonnet' and manually adjusted some of the software settings so it's works better in the heavy seas, realised all of my previous settings had been for relatively calm waters.
We've just passed through another timezone so Mike put all clocks onboard back an hour, inexplicably though he forgot to put back his own and came to relieve me on night watch an hour early, I didn't mind too much :) We've also just passed the 2000 Nautical Mile mark.
Just now Phillip caught a Marlin at least five foot! Phillip, Dad and I all saw it jump out of the water so can confirm this but unfortunately it took the lure on our weaker setup and Phillip was not able to slow it down any, it just keep taking line till it destroyed the reel and the line snapped. The clutch on the reel is now completely burnt out, the mechanism was too hot to touch and Phillip burnt his fingers.
Another update; We just landed a 5kg, 70cm Dolphin fish (aka Mahi Mahi or Dorado)!!! Finally we have a fish dinner. Funniest thing was while filleting it Phillip fell off the boarding platform into the water (he was tethered on) and his lifejacket inflated with quite a bang making us all jump (our lifejackets inflate automatically in water - see photo)! It was also two for the price of one as we found a flying fish in his tummy.
Finally we're starting to make realistic predictions about our finish now, we loosely looking at the morning of the 8th.
Mike: Spirits are great on Whippersnapper. We have 3 beers and 1 scotch ready to celebrate our 2000nm milestone. The route is approximatley 2800nm so only 800nm left or 5 days at our current speed but anything could happen between now and then. To my pleasant surprise, time has been going much faster than I expected and the journey is much easier. The sun is out every day at around 28 degrees and the water is currently 28.2 degrees which makes for excellent swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving when we arrive. Our new favourite TV series is 'The Killing' (thanks Lane) for those of you who are download pirates.
Dad has given us a new max speed, 15.2kts!!! (He actually saw 16.0kts briefly but you need a few seconds before the instruments will record it). He was hand steering on his morning watch and did a great surf down the face of a following wave.
We also saw Fry Flyt again last night. A Norwegian yacht we've been playing leap frog with since the 3rd day, they're in front, then we're in front, and so on. It's fun that we keep happening across them when most boats we only see once. I'm not impressed though because it's a much smaller 37 footer, (Hanse 370e) so we should be faster than it but I suspect they've a racing rig and sails to give them great speed. Dad is thrilled because back in Sydney he owns a Hanse 370e :)
Every second day we're sending and receiving emails, our internet connection is via our satellite phone and it's frustratingly slow but if we're patient it does work. Because its quite expensive we're only checking emails every other day. ARC send us weather reports (we also get our own to cross check) and daily position reports. It is fun seeing our position improve so much over the past few days, we were 75th a couple days ago and so eagerly awaiting the next daily position reports. We make bets each time on our new ranking.
Todays rig inspection found a bent shackle on the end of the preventer (line used to stop us accidentally gybing). We'd never really used a preventer much before the ARC but in these conditions with confused seas and heading dead downwind it's critical. When the wind gets much above 25kts and Whippersnapper takes a large wave on the quarter it's very hard for the autopilot to keep us on track and sometimes we do back the main. When this happens there's enormous pressure on the preventer. One job in Saint Lucia is to fit a much stronger permanently rigged preventer to make things easier for us.
Mike: We had our fastest day today covering 181.26nm. We hand steered most of our day time shifts in winds over 20 knots. It was great fun trying to surf the waves. Our daily range has now gone from our slowest at 134.6nm so it's good to know we're getting faster each day. It is also helped by the fact we're sitting in the Northern Equatorial Current (found above 15 degrees latitude) which can add 0.5 -1.0kn to our speed. The sky has got noticeably meaner looker now with huge black clouds passing over bringing strong winds and some rain with them. We have to be very alert at night for squalls. Like Phillip the other night I had a flying fish land at my feet during my night watch. They are a lovely blue colour and quite difficult to pick up to throw back overboard.
Except for Fry Flyt above we haven't seen any other boats for a few days now. It's strange to think 230 boats left Las Palmas together, heading in the same direction, at roughly the same speed give or take and now we don't see any of them around us.
The boat is going really well except that we blew up one of our two battery chargers the other day meaning we need to run the generator twice as long to generate enough power. We also try to cut back on power where possible so with less than a week to go and food supplies dwindling we were able to close down one of our two fridges this morning to save on power. We make water every day which is a real luxury as more than half the boats competing wouldn't have water makers onboard so probably wouldn't be able to shower frequently or wash dishes in fresh water etc.
Photo is Mike showing his navigational expertise on our Atlantic passage chart (a purist would never mark chart in pen Mike!).
Otherwise I don't feel like writing much about the day, firstly because I baked some bread which wasn't great (first time and I don't think I'll repeat the messy exercise), secondly because Mike and I spent the better part of the day unblocking the forward head lovely.
Last night though we did get our first taste of Atlantic squalls, only 30kts but with full white sails it was enough to make it scary on solo night watches. We bent a second stanchion when the auto pilot took us into a crash gybe and the preventer leant heavily on it (starting to accumulate a little list of repairs/replacements for St Lucia).
Right now we're rocketing along in 25-30kts winds partly reefed, averaging around 9kts and occasionally surfing up to 11, 12 & 13kts which is exhilarating. In these conditions we hand steer, partly because its fun but partly because the autopilots reaction are not quick enough when we're really pushing it like this.
Thrilled to see our ranking has improved so much, we're now 81st which is even better placed than we were after the first day. This is a corrected ranking that takes into account our handicap, so essentially it just means we're sailing better than average for our boat, still we're happy though. Alternatively on uncorrected time we're 112th overall or 7th within our class.
We caught a small Marlin today (see photo), he was a beautiful fish and while he may have fed us we couldn't bring ourselves to cut him up so after a quick photo shoot we sent him back for a hopeful exchange with his bigger brother. We also had another big bite in the morning that snapped a hook, we either seem to catch things too small or way too big!
Banana week is still going but it's starting to drag on a bit
Banana week is going well but it's also now yogurt week and cake week, we've so much food that needs eating! Phillip cooked us fillet steak for dinner last night with hand made chips, yum! Mike: When it came to provisioning for this trip we made sure we got a few treats. So naturally I got 10kgs of potatoes and the Murray-Walkers got 100kgs of sweet things like chocolate and cakes.
We're certainly starting to catch more fish, we think because the water is getting warmer (now 27 degrees). Yesterday we caught 5 before breakfast but all being smallish dorado we set them free again (see photo of one the the lucky ones). We did get a bite from a very big one this morning but he snapped the hook before we could get him aboard, bummer.
Heading further south has done us well, Winds have been 15-25 knots for the last 24 hours and it looks set to continue today. We had some watches yesterday average in the 7's and 8's yesterday which is great, our daily runs are improving. While we have the boat going great unfortunately the seas are awful, it's still a sharp and confused swell in which the boat really pitches around making sleep very difficult. Meal times are especially funny as we sit around the cockpit table and it's quite civilised except we have to eat one handed because you need the other to hold your plate. Mike and I have decided some bigger bowls and splades are a necessity going forward.
On a more problematic note, one of our battery chargers has blown. We'd actually ended up replacing our entire service battery bank in Las Palmas and while that is great now we can't charge them efficiently which means we're running the generator or the engine in neutral upto 8 hours a day, it's driving us all a little mad :( At first it was just a blown fuse in the charger but not having the correct replacement I hot wired it and on reconnection there was a big bang and some smoke, I think it's very dead now.
We are now though officially on course for Saint Lucia (following a great circle route), we also expect to pass halfway around lunchtime today.
PS: Last night Phillip got the fright of his life when on watch by himself in pitch black night a flying fish flew into the cockpit and hit him on the leg!
Mike: My friend, Lane, put me onto a great set of books (4 in all) called the 'Game of Thrones'. They made a TV series out of the first book last year and the second book is in production now. I'm really enjoying them and would recommend them if you have the time. We finished the Walking Dead and Entourage episodes that we had so we must choose a new one (hopefully not Glee!). When we reach half way today we will be the furthest possible distance away from land on this trip at 1350nm's or 2500km's.
A couple days ago we invented a new downwind sail configuration, I'll call it the twinakker rig (see photo). It's a little like twin headsails only one is our gennaker flown from the boom! 150m2, our secret weapon :) Only effective in light winds, it really helps when the gennaker is collapsing in the swell.
We've had three very big strikes at Phillip's lures in the last 24 hours, one fought for a few minute before breaking the line (24kg line), one bit the lure clean in half and another ripped the hook our of the lure. It's amazing when Phillip brings in the lures and you can see deep gashes and bite marks all over them. Still no big fish on board though maybe it's time for the 80kg line???
Today we'll mark 1000 miles towards St Lucia, we're going to celebrate with a beer at lunch! It's also the first day of Banana week. We had banana pancakes for breakfast, lunch I'm sure will be banana baguettes and I'm planning fillet steak with banana and cabbage salad followed by frozen chocolate bananas for dessert.
Apologies to all, apparently I've been including far to much jargon in the posts! I'll try to simplify things for our land lumber friends :)
The food dramas continue one package of our vacuum sealed mince was not vacuum sealed and has leaked blood all through one fridge, thanks again Mike for cleaning up that one!
We are slowly clawing back the places lost on day 2 when we were without our gennaker (big blue sail that makes us go fast), 96th overall now and 7th within our category of 17. I know some of you find it hard to believe we're not coming first but there's plenty of time to go and I'd also like to point out that of the yachts within our category ahead of us, two are racing yachts and the other 4 are significantly larger (larger yachts generally go faster) so we don't feel that bad right now :) Unfortunately we have no true sister ship to race against but there is is one previous model to ours which is a Beneteau Oceanis 473, we're 125 miles ahead of them. There is another Beneteau Oceanis 50 which is the same age as us but 4ft longer and we're 40 miles behind it which would seem about right. Mike would like to point out that during one of his night watches he had us going along at a record breaking 21.9kts in just 17kts of wind (in case we didn't believe him, he took a picture, see photo, SOG = Speed Over Ground). It's very impressive as it's over three times the normal average. Mike: Yes well what can I say, after all my years of sailing I know how to get the best out of whippersnapper. I got very excited until I looked at the track and noticed we were tracking backwards. We've decided either it was a huge current or a GPS error.
We are trying to stay a little competitive by making a competition of our daily watches with average speed but it's much more dependant on the wind than our individual expertise in sail trim. Dad is winning with an average speed of 8.0kts but that was done on the first day when we had the gennaker up in overly strong winds so it's unlikely to be beaten.
Phillip is still letting us down on the fishing front, we've a small competition running between us and some other friendly boats so we'd better catch something big soon there's ego riding on it.
Weather is fairly easy to watch at the moment, nothing really to worry about but we'd like a little more wind so just now we amended our course to get below the 19 degree north latitude in the next few days.
Mike: In less than 24 hours it will be one full week since we crossed the starting line. We should also pass the 1000nm point before then too, with only 1750nm left to go. Time has gone really fast, so far! One thing I didn't know before our presentations in the Gran Canaries is that its ok to throw all rubbish except for plastic overboard as paper, tins and glass are all biodegradable and don't adversely affect the ocean. So after one week we only have 1 bag of rubbish to store onboard - impressive. One thing I miss is the news and wonder what is happening in politics in Australia, Ireland and Europe. Is Malcolm Turnbull PM yet??? I have to say even though I'm bias that our Skipper, Hugh, is doing a fantastic job and is coming with great ideas to get the best out of our sails and rig. I'm sure we will arrive in St Lucia in the best possible time.
Day 5 Success on two fronts!
1. The seas calmed down enough so that I could climb the mast to and install a roller on the fairlead for our gennaker halyard. Finally we can fly the genakker again which I'm sure has boosted moral onboard. We've checked it a few times for further chafe but it's looking good so far.
2. We caught a young Dorado (Dolphin fish), only just big enough to eat but we managed an entree out of him. We've noticed the waters are getting warmer (25 degrees now) so hopefully more fish to come.
Day 6 Mike spent some time going through our fresh fruit and veg today, he washed all the grubs from the lettuce and removed the spoiled leaves which has left us with only about 1 full head. Shame, we'll be on cabbage much sooner than anticipated.
One lesson we've certainly learned is that we'll take a more proactive approach to our provisioning next time. ARC organised a few businesses to deliver to the boats and we just filled in order forms but I'm sure we'd be better off if we had sighted and chosen the fresh produce ourselves. We should have, for example, purchased bananas in a few stages of ripening, we have 100 green bananas on board and despite storing the hands separately throughout the boat I think we'll have 100 bananas to eat within a few days next week!
Our meat delivery has been beautiful though (we've loads of tender fillet steak) but again we're worried about the longevity because none of it was delivered frozen.
Weather wise we had a fantastic sail yesterday afternoon with the gennaker in 20 knots, averaging around 8kts for most of the afternoon but the winds died again overnight. Right now we're reaching along at just 5kts and Dad has just worked out he'll miss his flight at this speed we'd better lift our average again :)
Last night was our first night without any other boats around and still no one around us this morning this certainly is a big ocean.
PS: No more fish and Mike hasn't won a game of chess yet... very strange.
PPS: We're only dialling in with the Satellite phone email every couple days which is why these updates are coming in groups.
11/19/2011, Las Palmas
Gosh what a busy week! Just when we thought we had everything organised, off we go to a few ARC seminars and there's another list of jobs that need doing. We've been to seminars on rigging, provisioning, safety, weather, downwind sailing etc etc... Most have been really good and informative. We've also had a rigging check on board and a safety check both of which we're pleased to say we passed with flying colours. Whippersnapper has never been so well equipped, safe or heavily laden with provisions. All systems are serviced double checked and we're ready to go!
Dad has been an enormous help on Whippersnapper and Phillip arrived yesterday, with more surprises and some wonderful fishing gear. Phillip is going to be our master fisherman and we can't wait to catch some big tuna, dorado or even marlin! I've just installed a rod holder on the transom for him.
Being here has been fun, there are free sunset drinks every afternoon and a party or dinner every other night. We've met numerous other boats with similar ages and even some boats that we'll be sailing with all the way to Sydney. I think we'll all be great friends in no time and are already looking forward to spending time together in the Caribbean over Christmas.
In a couple of hours Mike and I will be attending the Skippers briefing to hear about the start, weather and other stuff. The current forecast is looking like we'll have a typical trade wind crossing which is great.
Tomorrow morning we'll head out early to get in some MOB exercises with Phillip and Dad before our start at 1pm. You can all track our progress online via the "Fleet Viewer", there is a link on the ARC homepage www.worldcruising.com/arc
While at sea we hope to use our new satellite internet connection to say in touch and hopefully post a few updates. We won't have access to our normal email accounts or phones but you could contact us on our satellite phone or send us an email (no attachments) to whippersnapper (at) mailasail (dot) com
Wish us all a safe and speedy journey across the atlantic!
11/12/2011, Las Palmas
Friday November 4th: Hugh and Michael shopped for fresh food and did some last minute jobs around the boat, a conference over weather with neighbour and then we left the Marina. The immediate forecast is stormy but short lived so we want to see if we can get through the straights and sailing before the wind dies. The wind was howling, rain was pouring and visibility appalling so after about an hour of motoring when we had some hail and 44kts of wind we turned around to an anchorage. The tide running into the Mediterranean can run at about 3kts so it is best to leave about 3 hours after high tide to get slack water. We'll see if the weather calms down after the next high tide.
Saturday November 5th: left the anchorage about 2am and motored for first 6 hours. There were large cargo ships everywhere and the AIS and radar were invaluable. At times it was quite hairy as they seem to loom out of the darkness. It was raining and blowing up over 30kts. We set just the genoa and still travelled over 10kts. It was dark, blowing, raining and very rough so we had full wet weather gear with harnesses and tethers. It was like this pretty much for the first 24 hours. We certainly learnt that all hatches, even those under the dodger needed to be shut tight. We had snacks rather than meals and needed lots of sleep. Both Michael and Hugh threw up (apparently for the first time), I have no idea what saved me. We did three hour watches and this worked well. The track to the canary islands is 232*M and 700nm. It is a highway for cargo boats as well as yachts.
Sunday November 6th: Michael woke me at 7am for my watch. Still dark but obvious that the weather had passed. Unfurling the main a batten pocket tore and the sail had jammed. Breakfast and then Hugh went up the mast. He had to pull the sail out of the mast by hand and had to go to the top to get it all out. This was done in an oily swell of about 4m. Michael controlled the halyard that Hugh was on while I tried to keep the boat nose on to the swell to minimise the mast movement. I guess when you have to you have to but I admire Hugh for just getting in and doing it. Mike came out with the dacron thread and it was fixed. I cooked a chocolate brownie which turned out more like mud cake than brownie but it tasted good. Late in the afternoon, a pod of dolphins came to check us out. They swam with us for about 10 minutes but could be seen close by for a while after that. Later still, a little bird flew around the boat then came on board and then flew into the cabin. It seemed totally used to doing this and looked like it was settling in for the night. We decided this was not good and shushed it out. Dinner was chicken cooked on the BBQ with rice and lettuce.
Monday, November 7th: Came on watch at 0100hrs with Whippersnapper under gennaker and main wing'a'wing in very little wind and traveling not very fast. It was a delightful evening with a big moon making a silver pathway on the water. This bliss was shattered when the topping lift on the main boom broke from flogging in the swell and I had to get Hugh and Michael out of bed to help fix it. Otherwise my watch was pretty uneventful. Being on watch in these conditions is no big deal, it is really a matter of checking the autopilot and the AIS for any other boats. Otherwise it is a good excuse for being on deck. Hugh and Michael fixed the topping lift so all is ok to unfurl the main if the wind lifts. Hugh has fixed a fishing rod they was given and is trolling for the big one but nothing yet.
Tuesday November 8th: Came on watch at 400hrs and all was calm. We were motor sailing in almost no wind and what there was was on the nose so really main up to reduce rolling. While I was sleeping, Hugh took some great film of dolphins on the bow. The water is so clear he could see them three meters or more down. He also caught a bonito but the fish meal will have to wait. After dinner we watched another episode of a TV series called 'The Walking Dead'. It is without doubt the the most violent, ghoulish film I have ever watched. But it is fun having it set up in the cockpit with the sound coming through the cockpit speakers. The ultimate outdoor theatre. The weather is great and getting warmer and because it so calm we are not wearing full safety gear.
Wednesday November 9th: It was a magnificent sunrise and at long last the barometer is heading down but only just. Very calm with only one other yacht in sight. Another pod of dolphins which I was able to film. Also caught another two fish. I mentioned that last night on watch I heard a clunk and, I thought, a change in the pitch of the motor. Hugh and Mike suggested it might be a bag on the propellor and sure enough when we stopped, reversed then forward several times a lot of small pieces of black plastic came off. It affected the efficiency by about 10%. Hugh put his head in the water with goggles on to check the propellor, he fell in but was out again just as quickly. Sighted land at about 1045hrs, the northern most island of the Canary group called Lanzarote. Last night while on watch, the autopilot cut out. The boat went sharp to port and started circling. I was below reading and raced up on deck to reset which was easily done but I realised I had absolutely no idea which way we were or should be going. Thank god for instruments. Now afternoon and day continuing as started. Hugh has broken out the new Australian flag and the Spanish flag.. We have seen countless turtles and some flying fish today. Using plenty of sunscreen but have not needed seasick tablets fore many days now. Doing plenty of kindle reading.
Thursday November 10th: Michael woke me early to take in our arrival at Las Palmas. It was early and not much happening but we were met and shown to our marina berth by one very officious gentleman in a RIB. I'm amazing at the number of cruising yachts here. Walked up to the ARC office and checked in and got the paperwork and put our names down for a number of seminars. Today was provisioning, weather and two handed crossing The seminars were great and really informative, similar to those put on at RPAYC for their Whitsunday cruise. We have not yet had the chance to look at Las Palmas as we have been busy with the seminars but we did have lunch at the yacht club which was very good and cheap. many people have stopped for a chat and already we have met quite a few and some from Australia. There is also a Hanse 370E in the ARC but I have not yet sighted it.
After seven months of cruising the Med we plan to leave it later today. We've been waiting for a 30/35kn southerly to blow past so we can motor through the Gibraltar Straits, sail out into the Atlantic Ocean and South 720nm to the Canary Islands to meet up with the other participants of the ARC rally in Las Palmas. Since our last update we've been berthed on a nice marina in the middle of Gibraltar called Marina Bay. We have spent most of the time busy getting the boat ready for the crossing and organising tradesmen to do the few jobs we couldn't achieve ourselves. While initially we were disappointed with the chandleries and the lack of tradesmen in Gibraltar, we got lucky and found excellent guys to do the required work. I'm glad to report Whippersnapper looks great and is very nearly fully compliant for the ARC rally. He has a new spinnaker pole, radar reflector, foredeck rails, clean turbo, some running rigging replaced, D3 stays tightened, new tri-colour/anchor light atop the mast and little things all over to prevent chafe (which can be a big problem on long tradewind sailing) and a multitude of other small jobs done.
We've hoisted up our ARC flag now and it's been great to meet people. A lot of the boats around us have done and are doing the same route so it's been very helpful sharing stories, ideas and knowledge. We also had good fun with our neighbours, James (UK) and Hayley (Aus), who sail on a lovely 56ft Oyster and were heading back to the UK for winter, thanks for the fishing rod!
Last Monday, we were very excited as we waited on the edge of the runway for Hugh's father, Fred, to land on his BA flight (gotta love the runway in the middle of everything). Alan Joyce I know you are Irish and probably reading our blog - know that we weren't happy with you grounding Qantas as it affected Fred's flight and he ended up having to reschedule to BA. It was great to welcome Fred back onboard and it rang home to us that the Atlantic adventure is upon us. Poor Fred had one huge bag of Luggage with most of its contents for us.
On Tuesday after the clouds cleared from the Rock, we ventured up in the gondola to see the views and the Monkeys. Gosh it was really cool with the views only coming second to the Monkeys. None of us realised just how many Monkeys were up there and how playful they would be around us. It was a real treat to experience Monkeys in the open like that. Fred even had one on his shoulder for a few seconds.
Yesterday we started the provisioning for the crossing and have turned the front cabin into a pantry. We bought at least 20 packets of rice, 20 packets of fun sized mars/milky ways/ snickers, 10 packets of par baked bread (they sold out we need another 15), 15 boxes of cereal, 18 cans of tuna and so on. We still need to buy lots more in Las Palmas. Gibraltar has been good but we're itching to leave now. It's a strange place with the mix of English and Spanish influences. Lots of high rise buildings lacking character and there is a big tourist industry with cruise liners. It also rains a lot, hopefully we've seen more rain in the last week than we will see for the rest of the trip!
We made it, our last stop in the Med, Gibraltar! To be honest it's not quite as we were expecting, I think we were expecting it to be smaller and with more sailing yachts. Sure it is small but big enough for a traffic jam we observed yesterday and instead of sailing yachts it's filled with huge cargo ships and surrounded by oil refineries and industrial land. Gibraltar Bay overwhelmingly a commercial port, the marina's are actually quiet small. We're a bit worried now because we need some service jobs done here and we think we may have been better off doing them in the larger places we've just visited.
Sailing past "The Rock" though is a sight we'll always remember and now we're in a very convenient anchorage just off the La Linea marina on the western Spanish side. We'll stay here while we co-ordinate what needs to be done before heading into Marina Bay on the Gibraltar side.
We arrived Sunday ahead of some bad weather predicted for Monday, 44 knots we had yesterday while on anchor. Whippersnapper does not sit well to the anchor in that sort of wind and he zigs and zags back and forth quiet uncomfortably. I'm sure it puts enormous stresses on the ground tackle and I think we need to find what is called an anchor sail that will keep our nose into the wind.
Yesterday when the rain and wind finally calmed down we walked into Gibraltar, quiet funny to walk through customs on the sidewalk and then straight across the airport runway. It honestly feels like the UK, we saw a red telephone box, red double decker busses, a "Bobbie" and we had Cottage Pie for dinner in a English Pub, plus it's cold, it's definitely jumper and long pants weather now.
Dad is arriving on the 31st and we're looking forward to having him onboard again. The three of us will make the crossing to the Canary islands (a passage of over 700NM) where we'll also meet up with my brother and take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) Nov 20th.
While interested to see old Muslim capital Granada, the ancient palaces, fortress and gardens, we hadn't done quiet enough research so as to know we needed to book tickets in advance. Tipped off by the car hire we checked online and found it sold out for the next two weeks. Mike optimistically said lets just go and we'll sort it out there. Well, day tickets were still sold out but he did find 8.30pm Palace-only tickets available. So with 6 hours to kill we explored those grounds open to the public before heading across the valley to the nearby village of Albayzin. We had a great lunch of tapas and beer deep in the valley beside the river before later heading up winding streets to a square call Mirador de San Nicolås for sunset views over Granada and a breathtaking view across the valley at the Alhambra.
The night tour of the Nasrid Palace was wonderful, I've never seen such highly intricate & decorative internal surfaces. Being night time though it could have been lit a little more, in most parts it was just plain dark so we left slightly disappointed but still amazed at such an incredible building.
Today it's been raining all day and windy at times, we're in a marina in Malaga. There is quite a swell on the water and we even saw some surfers catching waves on the beach near the marina... surfing in the Med! Unfortunately for us some of the surge was coming into the marina and the parsarelle we were so proud of got caught behind behind our boat and damaged a little, though it looks easy enough to fix. We've been lucky enough with our weather so far, I'd say about 99.9% sunshine but the next three full days are predicted rain :(
We're moving on now to a marina in Mirabella (i'm down below while poor Mike is braving the elements in a thunder & lightening storm) and we should be in Gibraltar tomorrow evening. For once in our lives we're moving with the current (about 1 knot right now) so it's increasing our speed which is nice (though Mike is trying to persuade me its because he is so good at trimming sails now) :)
(Photo is old lighthouse atop Dragonera Island) So we're now in Catagena (mainland Spain) and we're finally back in a marina, two nights at that! We've avoided marinas successfully since Rome, principally to save on cost but now we're on mainland Spain the exorbitant marina fees of late are all behind us and we're in "low season". When in Gibraltar we think we'll have a marina berth for just 10 euro a day!
Sadly though our time in the Balearics is over, I think we were there about 6 weeks in total. We loved the beautiful beaches and spectacular mountain scenery. I'm sure it was the most relaxed we've ever been aboard Whippersnapper.
Our last week in Mallorca (since Mike's last post) was very nice, we stopped at a few bays heading west from Palma along the southern coast. Calla Fornells in Santa Ponsa we anchored below one of the most beautiful gardens, it had all these raw marble terraces leading down to the water with planted flower beds and overhanging trees. I'm sure there's a photo in our gallery, we were told it was some famous movie star's house (forget the name) but it was just so beautiful, not over the top or formal, more whimsical I guess.
Cala Andratx I managed to lose a real of rope overboard but amazing we fished it out of 20M with our fishing line! Mike is still impressed with me for that one and laughs that the rope is the only thing we caught on the fishing line since we bought it :)
We ended our time in Mallorca in San Telmo, which is near Dragonera Island, we had a fantastic hike to the old abandoned lighthouse at the very top. It was built in 1850 and access is only via a very steep and winding path unto an altitude of 360M. The view from the top was like looking down from a plane, it gave you a sense of vertigo as on the western side the cliffs are shear right down to the water.
We had a wonderful day sail from Mallorca to Formentera on Saturday, a 25 knot Nor'easter blew us along at a fairly constant 8 knots and one surf saw us with a new speed record 13.4 knots! Unfortunately we opted to overnight at Formentera as the next day the wind only lasted till dinner time so we had to motor the remaining 14 or so hours to Cartagena.
Catagena is a surprisingly nice place, surprising because smell at the entrance to the harbour is was disgusting but once past that a historic city opens up in front of you. This morning we ran around the city and up to the Castilo Conception which overlooks a wonderful Roman amphitheatre and the city below.
We arrived in Palma two weeks ago today and up to yesterday hadn't moved the boat since. The reason for our longest time in the one place being we have found the perfect anchorage in the beautiful bay of Las Illetas. Hugh compares the bay to Balmoral - a nice calm bay with expensive houses. It also boasts a beautiful beach; cliffs that young guys come to rock climb daily, good snorkelling, fast free internet and a short bus trip to town. Our neighbours are mostly day boats and super yachts enjoying lunch and afternoon sun then moving off again but also a few live-aboard's like us staying for longer periods. The move yesterday was actually only to the marina 2nm away for fuel and back again. Palma Bay or Puerto de Palma is huge with nine different marinas beside each other and another six within close proximity. There must be berths for at least 8,000 boats of all different shapes and sizes and with most of the wharfs full you can imagine Hugh's delight when he goes 'boat-watching'. Another excuse to go to town almost daily has been the well-stocked chandleries. So we are using this time to prepare Whippersnapper for the Atlantic crossing on the 20th of November. As part of the ARC rally that we entered the organisers give a list of safety equipment that you need on the boat and prior to departure they will board the boat to survey that we have everything required and are consider fit to sail. So between the chandleries and our fast internet we're either purchasing items or getting deliveries sent to Sydney for Hugh's father to lug half way across the world, to Gibraltar where they are VAT exempt and Malaga because Beneteau says so.
Last weekend was a thrill for both of us. For Hugh because I left for Ireland so he had peace without me for the first time in 6-months. He spent all that time doing jobs on Whippersnapper and was surely in his element as the boat looked like new when I got back. In Ireland, I went to my friend Olivia O'Connor's wedding. It was a great day particularly catching up with all my Irish friends again. The next day was family day starting with a hurling match that my brother and nephew played together on, then a beautiful family gathering at our home house. I was nervous, as I hadn't been back there since dad passed away but all went well. Thanks all for a great visit, miss you already.
Our next port of call will be on the Spanish mainland, probably Cartagena @ 200nm away, however looking at the weather forecast and the lack of wind for the next eight days we may have to spend even longer than planned here in Palma. BTW hard luck Ireland against Wales this morning.
After leaving dirty St Antonio we spent a few days cruising north up the west coast of Ibiza. Cala Brinirras and Cala Portinax were both very nice bays with crystal clear water. In Cala Brinirras there was a large rock that protrudes well above sea level. They say it looks like Queen Victoria sitting on her throne which to be honest it does although I think the likeness is closer to that of Lisa Simpson. I climbed it all the way to the top before jumping back into the water, quite a drop, made me feel fourteen years old again. Mike and I spent some time snorkeling around the base through schools of fish and large rocks. I was quite pleased with myself because I can now comfortably free dive down to 15M.
We arrived in Palma - Mallorca last night after a very wet crossing back from Ibiza. Probably the first time we've seen real rain in a good couple months. Today though it was beautiful, still reasonably warm but the air has a really clean/crisp feeling that reminds you the seasons are changing. Palma is famous for expensive marinas so we anchored the boat close to town in Cala Major from where we took our bikes ashore at the nearby yacht club in Cala Nova, from here it was just a 15 minute cycle into the town.
We both agreed that Palma is one of the most livable places we've been. Both the scenery and architecture are beautiful, it has wide well laid out streets and especially appreciated by us today a fantastic bike path that follows the waterfront all around the bay. The locals look fit many were out cycling, running, kayaking, walking, sailing, swimming or just enjoying the sunshine.
We rode past marina after marina filled with beautiful sailing yachts and super yachts. Today was also the start of the Class40 Global Ocean Race (we saw the actual start on the water in the afternoon). They had a little expo with all the sponsors and that was nice.
What was really special though was we somehow managed to get into a private Oyster boat show at the prestigious Real Club Nautico Palma. For those who don't know Oyster is a very famous British brand of cruising yacht. They are the Rolls Royce of cruising yachts with price tags to match. There were about 8 models on show from 46 to about 80ft. We went aboard the 46, 54 and new 57 footer, the 57 was just incredible, next time we do this we'll have one of those! They all had such a feeling of quality and opulence but at the same time dependability and strength. In no way did they feel delicate. A very different design from our boat being centre cockpit though, the aft cockpit (like ours) is certainly more spacious and more suited to warm climates but the centre cockpit has a nice feeling of security and the interiors more cosy, I guess that's the British climate influencing the design. Oyster are having their regatta this week starting Tuesday and I suggested to the sales agent that we'd be willing crew if any of the yachts needed extras, we left our phone number but I won't hold our breath too much.
Next we continued cycling towards the Cathedral of Santa Maria or "La Seu", a huge gothic cathedral partly designed by Antonio Gaudi. Unfortunately the entrance is rather hemmed in by neighboring buildings but it's spectacular none the less, you can get a good view of the side from the waterfront.
Lunch a pizza and large San Miguel in some square followed by a leisurely ride though the character filled back streets towards the yacht club. Bread, milk, beer and pastries at the local shop and a short dinghy ride home... a perfect day.
PS; I even managed to get wifi from the fancy hotel ashore, I walked into the lobby and asked reception for the username and password, he asked me our room number but I just suggested we were on the beach with guests and I didn't know their room, he asked for a name and I said Mr Walker, well luckily a Mr Walker was staying in room 402 :)
PPS; I think we may have ruined our batteries, our house batteries which clearly say "Advanced Sealed Technology" on the side are not actually sealed and to our dismay on inspection one morning I found you can actually remove the caps to add water (sealed batteries are common on some boats). The house bank in total took 5 liters to top up! I suspect they're fairly sulfated because they are no longer holding a charge well. We've made a promise to run the genset more often to a full charge and see it we can't breathe some life back into them through a process we now understand as equalization.
When we began our trip last April we generally stumbled into storms without any knowledge of their existence. Oh how times have changed. Now we have a rolling 5 day weather forecast that we follow and double-check with various other references. So when we saw that a 30kn northerly storm was forecast for Sunday we chose the best anchorage on Saturday and decided to wait it out, that anchorage happened to be in the port town of San Antonio, Ibiza - famous for Cafe del Mar and drunken British louts.
It looked like a nice protected bay so I was really looking forward to a good nights sleep as I deprived myself of it the previous two nights with my mind racing after hearing of potential really good news from Australia. Unfortunately, no sleep was to be had as the protected bay turned into a rolly nightmare and music played until the wee hours.
On Sunday morning our Dutch neighbour dingy'ed over to enquire whether we knew about the storm and the bad weed for anchoring as he seen many other boats drag during his two week stint in the bay and as we were in front of him he wanted to make sure he was safe. Fair enough. Hugh dived in to have a look at our anchor and we decided to move it to a better sandy spot. Now we felt confident for the storm which was to start at 2pm and build until midnight.
It was nice to see all crews on their decks preparing, watching and waiting. One had the feeling that everyone was looking out for each other. Then at 3pm along comes a yacht and a catamaran and lay their anchors in front of us and in front of the Dutch guy. There is always one (or two in this case)! I called to Hugh that I think this will mean trouble so after a while I dingy'ed over to say hello and voice my concern. A Spanish family with no english only - it's ok, it's ok and no problem, no problem. Our British neighbour who was also concerned went over to them but to no avail. To comfort us the Spanish guy put out a second anchor but I had that feeling in my gut.
At 6pm two boats to our port side had dragged and were trying to lay anchor again (one of those boats dragged 3 times that night in total). At 8pm the storm hit 30 knots and the bay was rough, the boat in front surfed from side to side but held it's ground. At 10pm Hugh and I were downstairs when a neighbour flashed their lights on our boat to alert us that the boat in front was coming for us. We frantically dropped more chain and got out of their way. Thankfully they avoided us. We were sure that the guy would now lift his anchor and move to the side (where there was lots of room) but no he stayed put in what was our spot only a few minutes earlier. We went over to ask him nicely to move (ok we yelled at him) but no he was staying. Nothing we could do but watch out for him to drag again.
Later the catamaran that also arrived at 3pm dragged and headed for the Dutch boat behind us. We and our neighbour flashed our lights to alert them. Luckily they got our message and narrowly missed each other. I ended up staying on deck watching out for boats dragging until 4am when the wind finally died. Another nights sleep lost. Hugh avoided me yesterday :) but we got great sleep last night. I'm starting to believe the old saying that sometimes it's safer being at sea in storms than in a bay.
09/17/2011, St Antonio
Sure we still have the Costa Del Sol (south Spanish Mediterranean coast) and the Canaries to go but our last goal in the Med was really to get to the Balearics and enjoy some down time before the October thunderstorms and unsettled autumn weather arrives. In some ways this feels like it'll be the end of summer for us here, we've noticed the nights are getting cooler but so far the days are still a perfect 30.
We especially wanted to get to Ibiza and enjoy the last of the summer parties and atmosphere, we've been having a ball here. The old town if not quite beautiful has a definite charm, it's loaded with great bars, tapas restaurants and everyone is very friendly. It is absolutely exhausting though, dinner is from 10pm, the bars are empty before 1am and the clubs don't really get good until 3am! Fortunately there's nothing to do during the day except lie on a beach (a few times we fell asleep on the sand!).
The beach Es Cavallet was very special and we spent many an afternoon lying in the sun (we even bought a beach umbrella) or cooling off in the clear waters. It was nice to get off the boat for a bit and be around other people, quiet a social place too with a bar and good music. We met a couple other Spainish sailors, more Spanish, some Aussies, Italians, Germans, Belgians and English guys.
We developed a pattern of Es Cavellet during the day before moving the boat back into town where we anchored off Figuretes beach from where we could walk into town. It all got a bit too tiring though and after a week of drinking and late nights we escaped to the relative quiet of Formentera (a fantastic island marine reserve very close by).
What we did find hard was that for the first time in the Med we had a swell to deal with and there are few bays around Ibiza town to escape it. When we could we stayed in the beautiful bay Espalmador in Formentera but sleeping at Figurettes we had to anchor fore and aft to secure ourselves pointing into the swell (into the swell the boat doesn't roll). It's very easy to get caught out as the swell is only half a metre but once the winds changes at 2am and the boat comes side on to it you'll be rolling to the scuppers! It happened to us twice.
After saying goodbye to Ibiza town (and feeling a little hung over) we've been slowing making our way clockwise around the island. We'll eventually cross back to Mallorca in a week or so (from where Mike is flying back to Ireland for a few days). Along the way we stopped for lunch at Isla Vedra (sou'west tip of Ibiza) and had some of the best snorkeling of the trip. There were so many fish and wonderful rock formations.
Now we're sitting in St Antonio waiting for a storm to pass through tomorrow. Friends warned us of this place and after a quick walk around we could see why. You've never seen so many English louts, it's a tourist hell of tacky bars with dance music, dirty beaches and fast food. I think we'll prefer to stay onboard. There is though, no swell on this side of the island which is welcome relief.
Today we had a beautiful sail along the coast and passed what must have been a round the island race (with a number of international yachts). It was fun to see the crews hiked out on the rails as their yachts beat to windward while we slipped along on a fast reach stretched out on cushions :)
The Balearics consists of five islands made up of Menorca, Mallorca, Cabrera, Ibiza and Formentera. They are famous for their hordes of tourists, huge parties, lovely scenery and sandy beaches. When planning our Med schedule we had hoped that we would make it to the islands before summer finished so we could enjoy the atmosphere. As it happens we have around six weeks to spend in this area and so far our impression is that its going to be great.
We were delighted Lane decided to join us again after his sojourn to Mykonos. As he arrived in Mahon a day before us he had kindly scoped out the best restaurants and delis. After stocking up on local grown produce we decided to head for the bays along the south of the island. The scenery along the coast was beautiful with continuous caves built into high cliffs. Our first stop was Cala Covas. The book said it was considered the most spectacular and beautiful bay of the Balearic Islands so it had a lot to live up to. Wow, it was just that. The bay was small and shallow and full of other boats but we managed to squeeze in by anchoring and tying back. Surrounding the bay were high cliffs with nearly 150 caves built into them that one could walk up to enjoy. Another really enjoyable characteristic was the people. This bay and all the subsequent bays were full of young local Spanish people simply having a great time. Spain is definitely more relaxed than Corsica.
After lunch we headed to another bay called Cala Porte to secure an anchorage for the night as we had read that there was a bar built into the caves that we wanted to visit. As we got closer to the bay we noticed the bar jutting out of the high cliffs. You have to see the photos to believe it, as it was simply amazing. It was huge with various bars and a disco. Led lights lit up the ceiling to lead the way and to help avoid banging your head on low parts of the caves. The three of us were gob smacked at its beauty and enjoyed a couple of drinks while looking out over the Med at the wonderful view. It was a real treat.
The next morning with not so bad hangovers we headed to Cala Turqueta. Its an attractive bay with turquoise coloured water and sandy beaches. It was here that we learnt that the Med has stingers in the water. After a little swim and walk ashore, I was first to jump back into the water and into a group of such stingers. My frantic waving and screeches from being stung luckily alerted Hugh and Lane not to follow my path. In appreciation, Lane made a beautiful potato salad and the best onboard sandwiches yet! Afterwards we visited Cala Macarella but after noticing a lot of stingers there too, we stayed out of the water and resumed our now daily turbo hearts card game, where Lane was becoming quite the shark!
Tuesday morning, we woke up early to drop Lane off in the dingy for his taxi to the airport. It was sad saying goodbye and well miss him as he is a great friend and we probably wont see each other again until Sydney in little over a year. Thanks for your wonderful company. After seeing all that we wanted to see in Menorca, we decided to set sail for the party town of Ibiza via a stopover in Mallorca. After a few hours into the journey, we looked up from our chess game and were pleasantly surprised to find three big dolphins playing at our bow. They played there for at least ten minutes and we got great video of them. It was such an enjoyable sight. Luckily we got better wind than was forecast for the sail, which allowed us to reach the very sheltered port of Porto Colom on the East of Mallorca before sunset.
Wednesday morning we left Porto Colom at 10am for the 90nm journey to Ibiza. We were hoping to visit the national park island of Cabrera on route but the weather forecast was giving a few days of on the nose wind so were going direct while we have favourable wind and will visit Cabrera in a month or so. We arrived at our anchorage in Ibiza shortly after midnight after watching a marathon session of the tv series, Sopranos, to pass the time. Unfortunately the anchorage was not as protected as hoped and we spent the night rolling from side to side with little sleep.
08/28/2011, Mehon (Menorca)
We're safely in Menorca now and we have Lane onboard again for the next few days.
We certainly did have an exciting sail in the Tramontana, it was a pitch black night with no moon and despite arriving 3 hours early the wind was as forecast at 30 knots but there were some sustained gusts of up to 45. With just half the Genoa out we trucked along at 8 knots, occasionally surfing up to 11 knots.
We didn't really have any drama, only that because it was a hot night I had some of the smaller side portholes open, shortly after the wind arrived we got a big wave over the deck sending water onto our cooker and also the aft port bed - again lesson learned.
It was the strongest wind we've had on a passage so far, on deck in the pitch black with the noise of the wind howling, the waves crashing sending spray everywhere and the yacht pitching unpredictably through the waves it was a little scary but being down below was somehow much less threatening. With just half the genoa out there was really nothing to do on deck except lookout every ten minutes for other boats (which we could do from beind the dodger), so we sat for hours on the settee watching our instruments and chartplotter repeated on the TV, it was quite mesmerizing. The autopilot was amazing too, so strong and dependable even in storm conditions, I can't begin to describe how uncomfortable we would have been if we'd had to steer from behind the wheels.
Whippersnapper is a very strong yacht and we always felt safe but trying to sleep while being tossed around like a cork was very difficult, it felt like we were on a roller coaster ride! By the time arrived in Menorca then we were very tired and upon dropping anchor immediately slept for 3 hours.
In the afternoon we picked up Lane and caught up on the stories of our land based counterparts. We were also treated by all these classic wooden yachts sailing around our anchorage as (for we found out later when in port) the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge was on. At the marina later in the evening we had 40+ of the most beautiful classic wooden yachts in the world lined up on the marina so we could walk along and see each one, you've never seen so much glossy varnish and polished brass :) Cambria and Creole were particular favourites, Cambria a 135ft cutter launched in 1928, Creole a 214ft three mast topsail schooner launched in 1927.