Archer Adventures

Onboard "Jet-Lagged"

There be monsters!

We crossed back across the Med! A lot faster this time as we have a schedule to meet! We sailed from Turkey to Gibraltar in 21 days. 7 of those days were spent hiding from bad weather so we had 14 sailing days.

What a relief to see Gibraltar! The last part of the journey was a real slog into a 3 knot current, which really slows you down when your average speed is usually only 6 knots! It was grey and very gusty when we arrived and I had the awful thought that after 1721 nautical miles of safely navigating the length of the Med, I was going to crash the boat in the marina. Parking Jet-Lagged in calm weather is great fun. She has two motors and will spin in her own length; you look like a hero. But when the wind gets up her big hulls work against her, catching the wind and making “losing the nose!” a regular cry on our headsets as we “calmly” discuss how the berthing operation is proceeding. Park a boat in a 30 knots sidewind without killing your spouse and your marriage is built to last. That first beer after berthing is golden.

Gibraltar is great place for rest and recreation after a long trip. A little bit of familiarity, recognisable products in the stores and everyone speaking English! I think the world is a better place with proper bacon and great curry (but not in the same dish).

A week to replenish, service motors, fit new radio handset, buy safety equipment for the Atlantic crossing, fill tanks with duty free diesel (love it!) and we were off.

Into the monsters… You may have heard of the orcas damaging yachts in and around the Gibraltar Straits in the last few years. Lots of theories as to why they are doing it, but the risk is significant. More than 50 yachts have been disabled as the orcas bite into the rudders, and 3 have been sunk when the rudder was pulled out completely leaving a big hole.

The latest advice is leave Gibraltar and immediately cross to Morocco, and then sneak west along the Moroccan coast. It seems to have had less attacks than the Spanish coast. Of course the statistician in me says that may only be a reflection where the majority of boats have been sailing up until now. Even without orcas, crossing the strait is always scary, so many huge ships going so much faster than us. To add to the fun, it was grey, misty and gloomy.

I bought a fancy sounding bit of kit called an “Anti-depredation pinger”. This is a sonic pinger that is supposed to keep dolphins away from fishing notes and lines. Theory is that what works on dolphins should work on orcas. Cool. So I dragged my little orange pinger on a rope and crossed my fingers.

Halfway across the strait, fins! Dolphins, thank goodness. Well, the pinger will scare them away, good test of the equipment. Whole pod then had a great time surfing on the bows. Bugger. I did not mention that to Shannon, figured it may discourage the crew.

As we neared the western end of the straits, the wind picked up to 35 knots. Serious wind but luckily right behind us. So we blew out of the straits and into the Atlantic like last last night’s vindaloo and pints!

As the sun set, we turned Jet-Lagged south towards The Canary Islands, some 5 sailing days away. Little knowing that our challenges had only just begun…

We had forgotten the radio nutters who come out at night on Channel 16. This is the emergency calling channel and all vessels are tuned into it. As the sun goes down, you start hearing the radio operators on the merchant ships start to lose their minds. You hear whistles, cat meows, singing, weird whispering and of course lots of responses saying shut up! Which just seems to encourage the nutters. It happens every night and the more merchant ships you are near, the worse it is. It would be awful if you actually needed to broadcast a call for help but could not because of the weirdos dominating the channel. They seem to quiet down by about 2am, but it makes the evening watch annoying. These seamen seem to me to be a waste of sperm…

On the second day we were sailing down the African coast in bright sunshine and thinking this is the life. When a dense sea fog closed in! Where did that come from? For hours we could not see more than 50 meters from the boat. Even our radar had trouble penetrating the thick fog. The advice when in a thick fog is for small boats to stick close to the shore, where the big ships will not go. But then we received a message from the Moroccan authorities to stay at least 6 miles offshore. Weird? So we checked the weather forecast. A 6.5 meter swell forecast to arrive in a few hours! You do not want to be near the shore in that, unless you are on a surfboard!

So our relaxing sail became a little more stressful! The bigs ships show up on our chart plotter because they use the AIS system, so we could avoid them. But the fishing vessels often do not use AIS, so dodging them is much harder. And fishing nets and floats are just invisible, no way to avoid them.

Sailing on in a dense fog waiting for a 6.5 meter swell to arrive. Ah, this is the life. Wrong day to give up drinking.

Then a miracle! Just before sunset, the fog cleared! But what is that? The guidebooks to sailing the African coast warn about pirates, people smugglers and drug runners. As the fog cleared we saw 2 high-powered rigid inflatable boats heading straight for us. We are 60 miles offshore, what are they doing here? Each boat had 3 huge outboards on the back. Luckily I was armed with a fork and a wine-glass. This will not be a fair fight.

At the last minute, they changed direction and zoomed past us. And I went and changed my undies.

The next day we waited for the 6.5 meter swells to hit. But first, a little surprise from nature! Whale spouts ahead of us! Killer whales? Hard to tell! Aren’t we too far way from the straits for the orcas to be here? Then the whales starting breaching. Spectacular, but what sort of whales are they? I confess I panicked and put the pinger back in the water! Shannon was very disappointed, thinking I ruined her chance to get some good whale-watching in. I did not have the heart to tell her about the dolphins…

So then at 1am the 6.5 meters swells hit. Do you know what a 6.5 meter Atlantic swell hitting you in 2000 meters of water depth at 1am in the morning feels like? Pretty smooth actually. You just glide up and over the top. I went and changed my undies again. That was a wasted pair.

This morning a pod of 20 dolphins came and surfed our bows for over an hour. All is good with the world again. No undies change needed.