Picture: Left to Right, Tom and Bellomino in Palma
As idyllic as the last few days have been there appears to be a sting in the tail. Our constant sourcing of weather patterns ahead has shown an extensive depression in the area of Corsica. This is in our path and although not wanting to appear to chicken out the prudent decision was taken to stop in Palma and review the indicated weather from here.
Arriving at three in the morning Mrs. Marietta's company could not resist the attraction of Palma's night-life. One drink in the first bar and they started turning the lights out. No problem, another was soon found complete with loud head-banging music. Eventually the need for food arose and this saw us in an America style diner eating real hamburgers for breakfast with the light of the sun filling the streets outside. This may all seen strange after my comments about city pollution and all but "se la vie".
Taking the opportunity a walk around the city was enjoyed this afternoon. All was very quiet as it is the San Sebastian holiday resulting in most places being closed, this did not detract from the charm of the walk in very beautiful surroundings and gave me time to enjoy the architecture and the small winding streets. Knowing their way around I was happy to follow in a carefree mode soaking it all up on my first visit here.
There is a little maintenance to do while we strategise on the weather ahead and prepare for the rest of our journey.
Enjoy your sun-downer with us and pass the tapas porvavour.
Picture: Bellomino at the helm.
It is as if the Mediterranean has welcomed us with open arms. In spite of it being winter the conditions experienced since our passing through Gibraltar have been nothing short of stunning. Well today was just good as the description of yesterday's cruise along the Costa do Sol. The wind backed to the west during the early hours of the morning and gave us some excellent sailing with the slight swell in our direction resulting in a smooth ride. The last two nights have also produced the best star-gazing opportunities with the stars so bright that one felt it possible to just photograph the sky and colour in the constellations. Orion presiding over the sky with his sword in hand as Cassiopeia pointed to Polaris at the end of Ursa Minor, while The Plough, being part of Ursa Major, heralded Polaris from the opposite side. To the south at Orion's heel was Canis Major ever faithful and obedient as any favoured pet, and all the while the Gemini twins of Castor and Pollux looked on in amazement together with us.
The very slight sliver of the waning moon did little to dull the stellar display as the dawn approached ever so slowly as if not to rush things. I had not checked the actual predicted sunrise time so waited patiently for it to arrive. Gradually the soft light increased revealing the surface of the sea and illuminating the few clouds that had gathered along the horizon. From a soft glow the colours turned to gentle pinks deepening to a light amber. Suddenly unable to contain itself any longer the sun burst in on the scene in a blaze of orange and gold. The day had begun!
As favourable as our entrance to the Mediterranean has been I had an uneasy feeling deep down in my soul that I could not identify at first. As it progressed I realized what was taking place. Serene as the sea around me is my soul misses the open ocean already with this transition through Gibraltar. There is no mistaking the " BIG BLUE " as I fondly call the open ocean. One senses it's vastness in the long, rolling swells that bring a never ending energy from far away. The primary swell is ever present no matter what waves the wind may add on top. There is an unhurried peace in that motion that can not be dispelled or ignored, it is in fact an elixir that is to be craved and savoured. The fact that we are now on an inland sea is unmistakable. Absent from what little swell that there is, is the energy. It is flat and too easily affected by whatever local conditions may apply. Totally fickle in it's approach surrounded by the densely populated shoreline oozing it's pollution over everything.
Little mentioned in our story is Bellomino. The youngest in our crew he has brought with him an enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge that is a pure joy to behold as he tackles any task be it inside or outside the boat. He has little patience with the cantankerous auto-pilot and steers away sporting his infectious smile. He also has a propensity for devouring chocolate bars! Hopefully the connection will be good enough to send his picture as well.
It has been great to get all the blog comments coming back to us courtesy of Shaun who manages the site for us and in response to a recent one, Govoni, grazie degli avvertimenti, cosa dovrei fare adesso? Comprare un De Walt nuovo o una 44 magnum?
Now as we cross between the Islas Baleares with position 39 deg 01 min North and 001 deg 49 min East I bid you farewell till next time.
Picture: The rock of Gibraltar.
The one thing about sailing is that it will always be different. We are subject to so many subtle variations of weather and sea conditions that no two days are the same.
Reflecting back on our passage from The Cape Verde's to Gibraltar it is very surprising how different that portion of our voyage turned out to be. The weather pattern was radically different from the normal thus allowing us to take a most unusual route and in the latter stages to be so close to the African coast on our way past Morocco with views of Agadir, Casablanca and Mohameddia. We made excellent progress covering the distance from Praia to Gibraltar in seven days of glorious sailing with calm seas and even at times the wind from behind. So frequently on this route I have experienced head winds coupled with big seas resulting in hard beating with the boat heeled over, slamming and very uncomfortable for days on end with the passage taking up to twelve days. One always expects a layer of fine red dust blown from the Sahara to collect on the boat and taking the " inside " route raised my fears of this being a problem. We did have some but only a very light layer which washed of easily. Closer to the coast there were many more passing ships than on the conventional route. Having the AIS facility made this an easy task although there were many that did not have any signal at all. Their lights were visible at night and it emphasized the importance of keeping a good lookout at all times. We hailed a big red ship passing close by and enquired about our own AIS signal. Happily for us they had received it reassuring us that we are visible to other vessels as well.
Departing Malaga this morning we have had a marvelous days sailing heading almost due East along the Spanish coast. The wind has been a little from the southeast allowing us to motor-sail to good effect. In fact during on watch in the cockpit this afternoon I quipped about us just being out for a lovely sail along the Costa do Sol on a week day whilst everyone else was at work. Sure enough this is my profession and where I apply my expertise in a safe delivery but it does have it's immeasurable rewards on days like these.
Not that it is possible to be complacent. It must be remembered that we are now in the winter period which can produce some nasty conditions and we need to be ever vigilant to the possibility of approaching changes to the current situation. To this effect I have today down-loaded three sets of data including a synoptic chart of all Europe to be aware of what is driving the weather that we have locally. It is important to watch both the big picture and the local detail at all times.
As we approached Malaga the boat was dressed with our registration flag at the stern and the Spanish courtesy flag on the starboard spreader. On the port spreader we have an Italian and a South African flag signifying the nationalities of the crew on board. I thank Dudi for this gesture and consideration.
From position 36 deg 42 min North and 002 deg 10 min West at 21:15, I bid you all BUONE NOTTE as I catch a little rest before going on watch for my turn to play with the boat.
Picture: Enzo posing with the one he was allowed to keep.
STOP PRESS.....STOP PRESS....
Those following our tracking beacons will have realized that we entered passed through Gibraltar in the early hours of this morning and are now in the Mediterranean.For me it is great to be back here while for the others on board it heralds the last section of our adventure as we draw nearer to their homes. All in all it took us a month from Cape Town and allowing for the stops twenty six days of actual sailing.
At times during yesterday I was putting my thoughts together with a view to reflecting on our passage from Cabo Verde to Gibraltar but there was a lot of urgency in locating phone numbers and contact details for obtaining fuel in Gibraltar. The day was fraught with agonizing loss of contact on the satellite system and using cell phones with marginal signals to the Moroccan shore in sight to our left. Eventually we were able to contact the fuel dock just outside the marina in Gibraltar but alas they only have three and a half meters of depth at the dock and our boat draws four meters. On to the next plan which needed contacting a shipping agent to make arrangements for us to enter the commercial port and have the fuel delivered there by road tanker. More details needed and in the end the necessary information was sent via the trusty SSB system that gives you these blogs. Arriving at the port shortly after three in the morning we called up port control on the VHF radio to request permission to enter and tie up at the designated dock which we had been told about by the agent. At this point the red tape and beaurocracy caught up with us. The boats arrival and details had not been forwarded to the Port Authorities as promised, thus we were not able to enter into the port. Not even that they would not let us anchor outside to wait for the morning. In fact they did not even want us to be in their water space. Our cockpit conference decided to give Gibraltar a miss and head on into the Mediterranean and find fuel elsewhere.
Turning around we made our way out of the Algeciras Bay and passing Europa Point to our port side took our course eastwards into the Mediterranean. Perhaps the Spanish do have a rightful claim to this enclave.
Several of us had been in the cockpit for more than six hours with the cold wind on our faces. At on time I looked at the air temperature reading on the B&G, it was twelve degrees. Having sorted ourselves out with the course and a fresh watch I came below to my cabin. Taking off the outer foul weather jacket and farmer brown trousers and my fleece track suit I got into my bunk and pulled the duvet tightly around me. What a wonderful feeling of warmth crept over as I dropped of to sleep for a few hours.
Fifty or so miles along the coast brought us to Malaga where we were warmly received by the Spanish Port Control and Port Police who assisted us with some documentation and arranging for a fuel delivery.
The fuel has now been loaded and I have been able to check all the various engine oils and drain the fuel filters of water so we are ready for the next leg.
I have the chance to write this while the others wash the salt from the top of the boat and then I suppose it will be a fine meal together. Some thing that we can not always enjoy, eating while sailing is a relay affair with someone in the cockpit at all times.
Our position in the Malaga harbour is 36 deg 42.8 min North and 004 deg 24.9 min West.
Cheers from a contented Mrs. Marietta crew.
Picture: Crostata being prepared by Vittorio and Valentina.A very pleasant jam filled tart with a biscuit like crust.
When leaving the Cape Verde Archipelago to head northwards it is customary to proceed in a northwest direction towards the Azores and or Madeira. This is because the dominant factor in the North Atlantic is the Azores High governing the weather patterns with it's clockwise rotating wind patterns. These give strong head-winds on the route from the Cape Verde's to Gibraltar. On our leaving the islands we were faced with a different scenario. The typical high pressure cell was absent with little wind showing in a large area from well west of Madeira to the African coast and all the way past Gibraltar.
Taking this into account together with our desire to possibly call at Las Palmas in the Canaries we set our course directly to that objective. Those following either of our tracking systems would have seen the unusual track in comparison with previous voyages from Cape Town to the Mediterranean. It might even have raised a few eyebrows at it's unusual nature.
The widely spaced isobars coupled with the lack of the dominant high gave us the most delightful sailing conditions with flat, calm seas and light winds. The winds were inclined to be a bit variable and not strong enough to dispense with our trusty engine which has been performing well. Using the engine and available wind to best advantage whist not straying from our direct route has resulted in daily distances of two hundred and ten to two hundred and fourty seven miles a day calculated noon to noon.
As we have progressed a careful watch has been kept on the weather as several depressions developed very far to the west close to the North American and Canadian coasts. Fortunately for us these systems moved to the north-east and did not affect our general area. Closing in on The Canaries we were taking note of the changing situation towards Gibraltar. Staying to the inside of the islands it was decided to forgo our opportunity of obtaining spares for the auto-pilot and continue as fast as possible to Gibraltar, as the forecasts obtained gave us a small window of favourable conditions to enter and pass through the straights.
Typical of the last few days was yesterday when I spent practically all of my available time sourcing various forms of weather information. This time spent prevented me from writing which I wanted to do very much. Even today the time spent has resulted in me doing this perhaps after the best radio propagation times so I hope that I am still able to get it away tonight. Not that it has been all doom and gloom for the past few days have been as exciting as ever.
Dolphins in the form of the smaller Atlantic species have become frequent visitors to the boat. These extremely attractive grey and white patterned chaps are extremely playful and leap out of the water in spectacular displays. Arriving on a pod of about fifteen whales we slowed and circled gently to try and view the as best we could without disturbing them. very large by comparison to those seen earlier I did at least see one raise it's head as it arched to surface without actually breeching. Definitely baleen whales and by their size, the head that I saw and dorsal fin exposed above the surface I feel sure that they were Fin Whales. Unfortunately none of us got any good usable pictures.
Bird sightings have become much more frequent being close to the coast with Gannets being very much in evidence. A few land birds also came to pay their respects with a very pretty swallow spending the night.
Having already mentioned the catching of a tuna, Enzo was most perturbed when a few hours later we caught another, being smaller than the first he was not at all happy about it being given a second chance and returned to the sea. We were rewarded however by another catch the next day. Watch out for the photo!
Having passed The Canaries last night we are pushing on for Gibraltar hoping to be there some time on Tuesday the 17th.
News of Paulo has filtered through and we are pleased to know that he has received medical treatment and is well on the road to recovery. It does depend on the decision of his doctor and the availability of a suitable rendezvous to see if he can rejoin us for the last leg.
Here at 31 deg 09 min North and 011 deg 29 min West I bid you good night as I try to send this before going on watch.
Cheers, Tom et al.
Picture: Stormvogel at anchor in Praia.
Our days are filled and and while I try I do not always get my thoughts down clearly so please forgive me.
Yesterday our main course for lunch was fresh grilled tuna with a sprinkling of garlic and chopped parsley garnish. Absolutely delicious! The tuna was so fresh that a mere two hours before being cooked it was still alive. Fresher and more tasty I do not believe it is possible to achieve. But it came at a price. Wanting to scoop up some sea water to use while Vittorio was dissecting the fish the bucket that I had at the end of a rope suddenly dug into the sea and pulled the rope at high speed through my hands. Cursing at the loss of the bucket and surveying the rope burns I seethed inside. Opening the transom door I suggested to Bellomino that he get some sea-water from there where it is easier to control the bucket. He was successful with the first but on attempting another he let out a cry as the rope shot through his hands burning them even more severely than mine. Two good buckets, rather a high price to pay for one medium tuna especially when we have no way of replacing them.
To go back to Praia for a moment. On the Sunday while working on deck I watched as a classic looking yacht cruised slowly into the anchorage and anchored a little way off. I could not get the thought out of my head the she looked familiar and I felt that I should recognize the classic lines. Next morning I got a better view of the transom and thought that I could make out the name " STORMVOGEL ". Could it be true? I tried the binoculars again to look at the lines and the varnished deck-house. Shortly after their rubber duck came by and I hailed the two occupants. One was Ian the New Zealand skipper. Yes it was the genuine Stormvogel built for Kees Brynzeel in Knysna South Africa sometime around nineteen sixty. Still very much in her original condition being maintained by Ian who is also a shipbuilder by trade. Still racing regularly the grand old lady is a regular feature on the rostrum of classic regattas and here she was right close by. I wanted to accept the invitation to a sun-downer later but our own fuel issues prevented that from happening. How I wanted to be inside that well known and wonderful yacht. I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I did seeing her casually anchoring along side us.
For some time we too did not have any news of Paulo, eventually finding out that he was having further medical treatment. Last night after my watch I needed to send you an update to the blog. This I wanted to do after my time on deck but alas earlier in the evening I had received his and Riccardo's comments on the blog kindly forwarded by Shaun.
Having shared my watches with both of them I have felt their absence from the boat deeply. Riccardo in our discussions gave me a lot more than just in insight into Italian culture. Paulo always made us coffee when he reported for duty but it was more than coffee we shared. As they have said it is not possible to live and work in this small watery environment without caring deeply for each other. The lump in my throat was too large and the emotion too deep to be able to write last night.
I am pleased to have a contribution from Dudi to add to today's episode in our voyage.
Caro Paolo volevo dirti che abbiamo tutti apprezzato molto le tue parole. La tua analisi del nostro piccolo mondo in giro per l'oceano, è stata precisa, profonda e spiritosa come di più non si poteva. Mi dispiace che tutti coloro che non erano a bordo con noi e che hanno letto le tue parole non potranno capire le sottili ironie tra le righe che sei riuscito con attenzione e arguzia a disegnare.
Come puoi immaginare qui tutto procede con i soliti ritmi. Turni al timone, dormite e mangiate. Stiamo approfittando di una finestra meteo MOLTO favorevole che ci permette di risalire velocemente quello che invece doveva essere il tratto di mare peggiore da affrontare. Evidentemente tutti i festeggiamenti e offerte fatte a Nettuno all'Equatore hanno avuto buon esito. Sembra proprio che Nettuno e una bassa pressione ci abbiano messo una mano sopra la capa e ci accompagnino su per la salita. Dove navighiamo il vento cala e gira a nostro favore o quando contrario è leggero.
Ecco, neanche ho scritto questo che mi chiamano fuori che rinforza e un temporale all'orizzonte!!! Ch'aggià fa? Me la sono tirata!! Scrivere queste cose di venerdì 13 che potevo pretendere? Ma ci faceva piacere farti condividere questa parte di navigazione che non stiamo facendo insieme.
Speriamo tutti e anche Mrs. Marietta che dall'ospedale ti buttino fuori presto!! Sapendo quanto avresti avuto piacere a fare Gibilterra, speriamo tutti di trovarti in banchina a Casablanca. Per tua info io ho volato Milano-Casablanca con Easyjet a 40 euro andata e ritorno!! Se tutto procede bene la sera del 16 potremmo essere a Casablanca....FAI PRESTO!!!
Un abbraccio Dudi
Many thanks for sailing with us as we continue to head northwards at position 24 deg 13 min North and 16 deg 21 min West.
12/01/2012, Ilha Do Santiago
Picture: Vittorio, more than nearly 15 meters up the mast inspecting the rigging before departure.
Leaving the Praia harbour breakwater extension to port we felt the change as the calm of the inner sanctuary gave way to the open sea. Mrs. Marietta rose to meet the increasing swell as we continued turning to port so as to round the right hand side of Ilha Do Maio as one looks at it on the chart. Keeping close to the shore in order to maintain the best heading we were able to get a good view of the desolate coast once the town had passed. Green scrubby vegetation showed above a rocky shore interspersed with crumbling cliffs.
At Punta Coroa on top of the cliffs stood a large deserted house. Already visible at a considerable distance I thought that it was a lighthouse. But not so, it's large chimney rising well above the broken roof gave that impression. It stood there boldly looking out to sea high above the cliffs surrounded by breaking waves. Reality gave way to daydreaming as I imagined living there in an idyllic quiet environment with a large antenna array and exploring excellent radio conditions.
All along the coast we needed to keep a sharp lookout as the sea was dotted with small open fishing boats. Around four to six meters with only two to four occupants they bobbed along fishing. Some had a small outboard engine for power whilst others hoisted rudimentary lateen sails having possibly rowed out against the wind and tide. A hard way to make a meager living.
Leaving Ilha Do Santiago behind us we hardened up on the wind as much as we could so as to pass the next island to the opposite side on our right. The shore of Ilha Do Boavista angled in a north west direction and lay in our path so it was necessary to make several tacks to claw our way along this coast. Different from earlier views we could now see long white beaches topped with sand dunes. There was a large temptation to enter one of the bays, drop the anchor, get out the tender and go exploring but alas no such luck this time.
Here by contrast the sea-bed was shallow at around twenty meters and once again there were plenty of the small open fishing boats together with a few larger motorized ones. I imagined the fishing to be good in the shallow water with the possibility of a few rocky reefs and a viable food supply.
Being without Paulo and Riccardo we have rearranged our watch schedule and are still keeping the same three hours on duty but have arranged different off periods. Some of these are four and a half hour and some are six hours. Valentinna is now also keeping an occasional watch together with looking after the galley.
Our first night back at sea was a very pleasant one with a clear sky. Being a few days after the full moon the evening was dark and we were able to do quite a bit of star identification. During my early watch period I saw two satellites passing overhead. The moon eventually rose very brightly and although it reduced the view of the stars it improved our visibility of the sea. Relatively calm conditions prevailed as we motor-sailed on with a magnificent golden glow stretching across the water.
Since Monday my thoughts have been with the chaps at Southern Wind Shipyard in Lansdowne back in Cape Town. They are back at work from their summer holiday and I hope that they experienced a good new year and well earned rest. Thanks to them for all the effort put into the building of Mrs. Marietta.
The fishing lure is once again being trolled behind but our total catch amounts to one fish lost of the lure yesterday due to the boat speed and a piece of fishing net this morning. Thank goodness it did not get into the propeller.
Regards from us all at 17 deg 24 min North and 021 deg 18 min West.
09/01/2012, North Atlantic
Picture: Whale tail, spotted from aboard Mrs. Marietta
It's after midnight by whichever time zone affects us and while I need to get some sleep I am also aware of the necessity to keep all our followers informed of the status quo of our voyage. We live in an era of rapid information exchange but sometimes we need to be discreet with the handling of that flow so as not to be intrusive on the effects of each other.
It might seem idyllic to be anchored in such a remote and almost exotic place such as Cabo Verde but we have needed to achieve a lot and have also experienced much over the past couple of days that has affected our lives. On the surface we have done a lot of work on and around the boat in preparation for the next leg of the adventure.
I always regard Cabo Verde as being the half way mark of the voyage from Cape Town to any Mediterranean destination. It may not be precise in terms of distance traveled and still to go but the total voyage is split in two by the sailing that takes place. From our beginning in Cape Town we have predominantly following winds in the South Atlantic that allows the boat to move along with wind and wave in unison, surging ahead with the rise and fall of the swell and the sails billowing out whilst we run before the wind. After crossing the ITCZ we have the wind and wave patterns from ahead and have to work hard to gain precious miles beating to windward. On one tack many miles can be gained but hen on the next tack the best course can be as much as at right angles to that which is desired so it becomes a game of two steps forward and one step back.
To achieve this effectively we need the boat in the best condition possible and to this end we have worked for the past two days. The mast and rigging has been checked thoroughly. At one time we had both Bellomino and Vittorio aloft simultaneously doing the necessary work. A full inspection of the engine room has been done ensuring that all oil levels are correct as well the various mountings and hoses being checked for tightness and leaks. One of the water makers needed a lot of attention so we are also confident of having adequate fresh water as needed.
At the end of the to do list was the filling of our fuel tanks, ordering the fuel early this morning it was promised for delivery mid afternoon but island time is island time and the truck arrived much later. The filling nozzle was too large for the deck fitting so was changed for a smaller one but this regrettably did not have a trigger operated valve. In the process of starting the pump on the truck there was so much pressure that we ended up with a virtual geyser spewing fuel back out of the filling pipe and onto the deck. For the first time ever I have had fuel all over myself and the deck. Fortunately we had taken the precaution of having a water hose handy and I was able to wash my eyes out swiftly.
We wanted to depart right after refueling but with the need to extensively clean the deck we made our way back to the anchoring area where Bellomino and Enzo toiled until well after dark with the task.
We are now ready to depart early in the morning but are all aware that we will not be continuing as we arrived. Sadly we said farewell to Paulo and Riccardo who have returned home. Paulo was not well for a few days and felt it prudent not to risk the situation any further. With the delays experienced in Cape Town Riccardo was running out of time on his leave of absence from work and as such needed to get back to work.
I shared my watches with both of them and will miss their company. Also I trust that you will all understand my motives for not saying anything too soon out of respect for their personal needs.
This afternoon I spent a lot of time gathering fresh weather and synoptic information for our route ahead.
So I say BUONO NOTTE from the anchorage here in Praia for in the morning we will sail on.