Voyage of SY Nessaru

The 2024 voyage of a 39ft sailing yacht, Nessaru, from Barcelona, Spain, across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, via the Panama Canal, to Bundaberg, Australia.

22 June 2024 | Port Louis, Grenada
17 June 2024 | Port Louis Marina, St Georges, Grenada
20 May 2024 | Pasito Blanco, Gran Caneria
08 May 2024 | Puerto Deportivo Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria
28 April 2024 | Rota, Andalucia, Spain
20 April 2024 | Almeria, Club de Mar
12 April 2024 | Port Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain
05 April 2024 | Port Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain
17 March 2024 | Port Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain

Yoyage of SY Nessaru - Across the Atlantic to Grenada

22 June 2024 | Port Louis, Grenada
Colin Maslen | Hot and very humid with frequent rain squalls
To continue our narrative regarding the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean:

Marine Life
In the introduction to the previous blog update, I mentioned that we saw one whale, two turtles, birds, dolphins, and lots of flying fish.

Not all of the birds we encountered were sea birds. Sometime after leaving the Gran Caneria, a small pidgeon landed on the yacht. He stayed with us for hours, sometimes flying off, circling the yacht, then landing again. We were thinking about giving it some water and biscuit, but by early morning he was gone and did not return. Poor little fellow, he would not have survived.

We had another bird coming to rest on the yacht for a short while, a swallow, possibly a Barn Swallow. Apparently, these remarkable birds migrate from their breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere to their wintering grounds in the Southern Hemisphere, navigating vast distances, crossing continents and oceans. This bird certainly looked more capable of surviving an ocean crossing than our poor little pidgeon!

On Sunday 26 May we saw our one and only whale which passed quite close, about 30 metres down our port side. It was very large, much larger than Nessaru, and pale grey in colour. After consulting The Mariner's Guide to Marine Life, we think it was a sperm whale.

We saw lots of flying fish, skimming across the wave tops like miniature sea-skimming missiles. Each morning we would find a few on Nessaru's deck. One even came through a small hatch and landed in my forward cabin.

The AIS MOB Incident
At 04:45 on Tuesday 4 June, Michael noted that the AIS (Automatic Identification System) had registered a Man-Overboard (MOB) alarm, with an MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identification) but without a position (latitude and longitude). Coming off watch, I checked that the MMSI did not match Nessaru's MMSI. However sometime later, Michael noticed a red light shining through his jacket. Ah no! It was his personal AIS/MOB beacon that had accidentally activated! We immediately called Al Johnston using the Iridium satellite communication system, and asked him to notify the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and all concerned, including Mandy and Annie, to assure them that it was a false alarm and that Michael was still onboard the yacht.

By all accounts, the system worked in as much as AMSA notified key contacts as well as other search and rescue authorities. Thankfully, it seems that we were able to inform AMSA that it was a false alarm before a full-blown search operation was undertaken.

Strange sightings

A couple of days after departing Gran Caneria, Michael told me that, while on watch at night, he saw a wall of sand ahead of the yacht, then on the following night, a forest of trees. (I have read about solo sailors having hallucinations from sheer exhaustion.) Next, Michael told me he saw strange lights, lighting up in sequence to form a shape in the sky like the letter H. Hmmm! But then the following night I saw the strange lights too, only the ones I saw, about 10 or 12, lit up sequentially in a straight, almost vertical line, then diminished. Michael thought they might have been Elon Musk's satellites, but we do not know.

Then on 8 June, at 04:45 when we handing over the watch, something even more weird happened; we were overflown by what can only be described as an unidentified flying object. I was steering at the time so my vision of the sky was obscured by the bimini (canopy) over the helm. But Michael described it as a large object, with flames coming from four burners, flying fast and very low, only a few hundred metres above us, but without making any sound. When I saw the object, the four burners had merged and I thought it looked like a very bright meteorite. Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, within a few minutes it was gone. What was it? Michael did not think it looked like a commercial aircraft (see his drawing on the photo gallery), but did briefly consider the possibility that we might have been witnessing an aircraft about to crash or ditch into the ocean. But as far as we know there was no crash; it kept on going and climbed into the night sky before disappearing. And there was no noise! There are some strange things happening in the Atlantic Ocean!

Food
As mentioned earlier, to conserve battery power we adopted a practice of turning the refrigerator off at night. Our priority for meals then became the fresh food in the fridge which ran out about eight days out of Grenada. We had to ditch just a few items which had spoiled - some mince, bacon and butter - then resort to canned food, either meat balls or canned ravioli, and dried food which was either mashed potato, pasta or rice. For breakfast we had muesli, and lunches were usually noodles in a cup. We tried to add some variety to what was becoming a very boring diet. One day we had hard boiled eggs and crackers, and another day it was pickled onions and crackers for lunch. A real treat was when Michael baked bread. On the last occasion when we had Michael's fresh bread for lunch, we did not have any butter and we scraped the last of the jam out of two jars.

Spillages

With a rolling vessel in a big sea, spillages of one sort or another occurred regularly. Here are some examples: In the fridge - milk, fruit juice and peas; on the stove, bench tops and table- coffee, sugar, muesli, pasta, rice and canned food; On the deck - all of the above plus honey (Michael likes honey in his coffee; when I was making coffee, the container fell onto the deck and the lid came off. I scooped up what I could with a spoon and added it to his coffee. He said the coffee was good, and what he did not know did not do him any harm!)

Iridium GO!

In a previous blog I have mentioned Iridium GO! It was a very disappointing system. A typical log when attempting to send and/or receive am email would go like this:
- connecting to the internet
- connection type is: iridium GO! for mobile devices
- connection protocol is: maxwell
- logging into device
- status: connecting
- status: disconnected
- Failed to connect to network
- Done
The above would be repeated over and over and over again, sometimes 20 times or more, until, if I was lucky, I might get a connection. Then, if the satellite was lost and the Iridium device went into search mode, I would have to start again. Fortunately the phone connection worked reasonably well, but Iridium Mail was woeful and the internet connection did not work at all. Not good when crossing an ocean and Iridium is your only means of communication with the world!

Arrival in Grenada and the end of our yoyage
On the evening of Saturday 15 June we arrived in Grenada, navigated a narrow channel into a lovely little bay called St. David's Harbour, and secured the yacht to a buoy. It was great to be able to prepare and enjoy dinner without the boat rolling from side to side, and to look forward to a full night's sleep, We just wished we had some beer or wine to celebrate with.

The following morning we slipped from the mooring and motored around the south-east corner of Grenada to St. George's and then into Port Louis Marina. We secured alongside our allocated berth at 09:32, then cleared Customs and Immigration.

During the latter half of our Atlantic crossing, Michael and I considered our options and decided not to continue across the Pacific Ocean. We would put the yacht up for sale in either Panama or Grenada. There were a number of reasons for this decision: The adventure was taking a lot longer than we had anticipated and we were unlikely to be home before November or December; it was costing more than we had budgeted for; on arrival in Australia we would have to pay 5% stamp duty plus 10% GST on not just the purchase price of the yacht but also the cost of getting it to Australia - money we no longer had in reserve; and having crossed one big ocean, we did not feel the need or desire to spend weeks at sea crossing another.

Shortly after our arrival, we made inquiries about putting the yacht up for sale in Grenada, which seems to have become the unofficial yachting capital of the Caribbean. Subsequently, Gary Haynes from Horizon Yachts Grenada, a yacht management agency and brokerage, agreed to manage the sale of Nessaru. Gary is an Australian, from Manly in Queensland, and we got on well; we feel assured that our yacht will be in good hands until sold. However we do have to move from Port Louis Marina which would be far to expensive for us to keep the yacht here for the long term. Gary recommended a bay called Woburn, where a fellow called Dominic will lease us a mooring and keep an eye on our yacht - for a fee. So on Sunday 23 June we will leave Port Louis and sail to Woburn.

Readers may recall from earlier blogs that Gary Humphries was going to join us in Panama as third hand for the voyage to Tahiti. When I updated Gary on our change of plan, he decided to come to Grenada and from there to continue on to South America. So Gary will have a very short voyage in Nessaru when we relocate the yacht to Woburn. The day after we moor the yacht and hand it over to Dominic and Gary Haynes, we will disembark; Michael and Gary will spend a few days in a hotel in Secret Harbour, Grenada, before going their separate ways. I will fly home via Barbados, London and Singapore, departing Grenada on 24 June.

So, there you have it - the end of the Voyage of SY Nessaru. We are sorry if some of our followers will be disappointed, but we feel we have made the right decision. It has been a big adventure, we sailed over 4,000 nautical miles from Barcelona to Grenada across the Atlantic Ocean, and we have no regrets!

Voyage of SY Nessaru - Gran Caneria to Grenada

17 June 2024 | Port Louis Marina, St Georges, Grenada
Colin Maslen | Warm, occasional showers
We made it - we crossed the Atlantic Ocean! 2755 nautical miles in 25 days. We saw one whale, two turtles, birds, dolphins, and lots of flying fish. Five days after leaving the Canary Islands, we did not see another ship of any description for fourteen days - there was just the two of us in our 12-metre yacht, alone on a vast ocean. We did see strange lights in the night sky and an unidentified flying object - more about that later.

For 25 days we had no internet, no alcohol, and no chocolate. One week out from Grenada we started to run out of various items of food such as biscuits and canned fruit. But we were very conservative with fresh water and still have water in the tanks on arrival in Grenada.

We had some very anxious moments during the passage, when either the engine would not start or the alternator was not charging the services battery which powers the "hotel" load - lighting, communications, instruments and so on.

For most the crossing, we had the wind on the port or starboard quarter, that is almost coming directly from astern, together with a two to four metre swell.

Sailing
After fitting our new mainsail, we cast off from Pasito Blanco, Gran Caneria, at 1610 on Tuesday 21 May, on an initial course of 245 degrees. By 2245 that night we fully furled the Genoa and reefed the mainsail to the 3rd reef in strong winds gusting 30 to 35 knots. (To reef a sail means to reduce the sail area and consequently reduce the pressure on the sail and the rigging. Nessaru's mainsail has three reefing points, each of which reduces the sail area by about a quarter. Our mainsail is filly battened, and our reefing system is "slab" reefing, which is probably the most common system. Some yachts have in-mast furling, and some even have roller furling inside the boom, but that does not work when you have battens - lengths of fibre-glass which slide into pockets in the sail and help to maintain the optimum shape of the sail).

For the first three days we followed a great circle track on a course of about 258 degrees, but then altered course more to the south to pick up the trade winds. Our best daily run was from 27 to 28 May when we covered 128.6 nautical miles at an average speed of 5.4 knots. Then the wind dropped and the best we could average over the next five days was 4.1 knots. By now were well south of the great circle track, and on 3 June we started to pick up the trade winds. We altered our course incrementally, from the south-west to more westerly as we got closer to the Caribbean.

For almost all of the passage, even when the winds moderated, we were riding on a large swell, averaging about two to four metres, in which Nessaru sailed with an uncomfortable rolling motion. Every so often we would be hit by a series of large waves, which usually came in groups of three to five, and occasionally we would be smacked by a monster which would throw Nessaru wildly off course and heal her over to about 30 degrees. Having said that, Nessaru proved to be a good sea boat and handled the conditions very well. Quite often, when we dared look astern, it seemed that we were abut to be swamped by a huge wave. But Nessaru seemed to hitch up her skirts and ride over them; not once did any wave break over into the cockpit.

For most of the voyage we had the wind and swell on the port or starboard quarter, that is, a few degrees from right astern. We sailed mainly with the mainsail full or reefed depending on the wind strength, and only occasionally used the headsail or Genoa. We tried using the spinnaker pole to set the Genoa on the opposite side of the boat to the mainsail, a configuration commonly referred to as a "goose-wing", which worked with some success. However, when the yacht was pitching and rolling in a heavy sea, man-handling a heavy spinnaker pole on the foredeck was too dangerous and so, for the most part, we kept the Genoa furled.

Anxious moments
The day after sailing from Gran Canaria, the "Start" button on the engine control panel failed and we could not start the engine. I opened up the control panel, which is a "rat's nest" of unlabelled wires, switches and electrical connections, only to find that the start switch casing had come apart, and six small bayonet-style electrical connections then fell out. Somehow, I managed to reassemble the start switch, glued it together with Super Glue, and then did my best to reconnect the electrical connections. With a bit of guess work and some trial and error, I got the start button to work again - it even works without the key - so that we could start the engine.

But the drama didn't stop there. With the engine running again, we assumed the alternator was recharging the battery. It wasn't! The following morning the battery voltage had dropped alarmingly, and we ran the portable Yamaha generator to try to recharge it, while I worked on the control panel to get the alternator working again. This was what you might call an anxious moment. The portable generator and the solar panels can keep a battery topped up, but neither of them has enough capacity to fully recharge a flat battery, and we did not have enough fuel for the generator to run it indefinitely. Without a 12-volt system we would be in big trouble - no instruments, lighting or communications! We discussed our options, such as changing our destination - but the only viable course of action would have been to turn around and go back to Gran Caneria.

Fortunately, with more luck than skill, I was able to restore the electrical connection that starts the alternator, and we were able to recharge the battery. A disaster was avoided! However, when working on the panel, I may not have reset all of the electrical connections correctly. The engine has an exhaust fan called a blower, which supplements the engine exhaust system by extracting fumes and heat from the aft cabins and saloon. Without the blower the boat is almost uninhabitable when the engine is running. But now the blower would no longer turn on! I was reluctant to play around with the panel again, so I rewired the blower to a switch which provides power to the anchor windless (after disconnecting the windless remote to remove the risk of us dropping anchor in the middle of the Atlantic). Now we were able to start the engine, run the blower and recharge the batteries. To misquote Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo, "It was a close run thing!"

The next problem to grapple with was to determine why the services battery voltage had dropped overnight. We reasoned that the main culprit was not the Raymarine auto pilot, but the refrigerator which was probably drawing more power as we travelled south into warmer water. We became very aware of the state of the battery and monitored it frequently. We establish a routine whereby we would run the engine for an hour before nightfall, then switch off the refrigerator and reduce electrical systems to the absolute minimum - AIS and instrumentation only, without any cabin lighting. To further reduce power consumption, at night we steered mostly by hand, only switching on the autopilot for fifteen minutes at a time to give ourselves a break after the first and second hours of the watch. As it turned out, that precautionary measure was not entirely necessary; the autopilot proved to be remarkably efficient, and towards the end of the voyage we were often letting it steer the boat hours on end, day and night. The solar panel also worked well and, as long as there was not too much cloud cover, kept the battery charged during the day.

We had no further trouble with the engine until day 21 at sea (with four days to run to Grenada), when it started to shudder, made some horrible noises, then stopped, and would not start again. After some troubleshooting, Michael found a drive belt connected to the alternator and the cooling water pump which seemed to be a bit loose. The following day we re-tensioned the belt - it was a two-man job - and then tried starting the engine. Initially it went back into a spasm and stopped. We left it to cool for a while then tried again. Success! We ran the engine in neutral, then slowly in gear, all the while with fingers crossed. Amazingly, since then, the engine has run just as smoothly as it did before it malfunctioned. We are not sure if tensioning the drive belt was the solution, or if there was some temporary blockage in the fuel lines which subsequently cleared, but we were very relieved!

Watchkeeping

We kept four-hour watches during the day and three hours at night. Unless there was a full moon, keeping watch on a dark night could be grueling, especially when there was no visible horizon and therefore no reference point, particularly from 2300 to 0200 and 0200 to 0500. The following watch from 0500 to 0800 was not so bad, because one got to see the dawn and sunrise.

Steering the boat in a heavy sea and strong wind requires a lot of concentration, and whenever the helmsman's concentration lapsed, the boat would veer wildly off course.

While off-watch, one could always be called upon to get up and help reef the sails whenever the wind increased. So we were often getting very little sleep. To say that we were tired would be an understatement; we were often exhausted, struggling not to fall asleep on our feet!

To be continued: In the next blog I will talk about strange sightings at sea, the EPIRB incident, our food and meals, our arrival in Grenada, and the curtailment of our adventure.

Voyage of SY Nessaru - In Posito Blanco, Gran Caneria

20 May 2024 | Pasito Blanco, Gran Caneria
Colin Maslen | Sunny, light wind from the NE
Thank you everyone for your comments on our blog and for your words of encouragement. Very much appreciated!

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 21 May, we plan to set sail from Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria, for our next destination which will be Port Louis, Grenada.

We had planned on a stopover in St Lucia with Martinique as plan B, but the paperwork required for St Lucia is ridiculous - various forms signed, witnessed and stamped with the "Captain's stamp" and accompanied by two passport-size photos for each member of the crew, plus a 30% deposit paid in advance. The marina in Martinique didn't even respond to my booking request. So we are going to Port Louis in Grenada instead.

Predict Wind tells us that we should expect the wind to be from the north-east at a steady 17 knots, moderating to about 13 knots over the next few days. Our initial course of 240 degrees should put the wind on our starboard quarter, so it should be a good run. The great circle distance from Pasito Blanco to Port Louis is 2,750 nautical miles. I have planned the passage for 5 knots, which should see us arriving in Grenada on 13 June, in 23 days' time. If we average more than 5 knots that will be a bonus.

We have been waiting for our mainsail to be dispatched from Panama, and, at long last, it arrived in Gran Caneria today. Meanwhile Michael got a marine engineer onboard who found one more leak in the fuel lines and filters for the motor. That should eliminate the need to bleed the fuel injectors every time we want to start the motor, and stop diesel getting into the bilges. It is now starting up without any delay.

We hired a car for a few days and visited the capital, Las Palmas, where we got some bits and pieces, including new blocks (or pullies) to replace those that were damaged on our passage from Rota to Gran Canaria, as well as a new base for one of the guardrail stanchions which needed replacing.

We had a rigger here last Thursday to check and re-tension our standing rigging and to deliver the battens for our new sail. We have re-run some of the halyards, the mainsheet and the boom vang, and carried our a few repairs such as installing the guardrail stanchion.

The yacht is fully fuelled (140 litres in the tank plus two 20 litre jerry cans), and the water tanks are full (360 litres with an additional 56 litres in 8 litre plastic bottles). Washing has been done, charts and passage plan are up to date, provisions are stocked up, and we are ready to go. I even have Iridium GO! working to the extent that I can now send and receive an email from/to my Iridium email account (colin.maslen@myiridium.net). I should also be able to download limited updates from Predict Wind, but internet access will still be out of the question. Yesterday I ordered StarLink, to be delivered when we arrive in Shelter Bay, Panama.

A little bit about the Canary Islands: The marina at Pasito Blanco is quite good, with a club called La Punt at the end of the breakwater, and a small supermarket near the marina offices. However it is a bit isolated, about two kilometres from the nearest town, Maspalamos, which is very much a tourist centre populated mostly with British and European tourists.

However, our overall impression of Canary islands is that they are dry, desolate and not very appealing. There are numerous seaside villages, resorts, grand hotels and marinas around the coastline of Gran Caneria, some of which are looking very tired and run-down. Unless you are into the beach/pool culture, sailing, marlin fishing (at great expense) and maybe golf, there is not a lot to do. The landscape is rocky and barren with very little vegetation other than palm trees, cacti and small, spiky shrubs. The only grass you will see is on the golf course; elsewhere in the resorts and villages any "lawn" is mostly plastic turf. One positive feature of Gran Caneria - the roads are excellent!

The history of the Canary Islands is not very enlightening either. Early conquest by the Spanish, accompanied by the extermination or enslavement of indigenous people together with the brutal exploitation of African slaves, make Australia's colonial past sound quite benevolent.

I also learned that the name Canary Islands, Islas Canarias, has nothing to do with little yellow birds that sing sweetly in cages. It is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning "Islands of the Dogs", perhaps because monk seals or sea dogs were abundant. Wikipedia says that, according to the Roman historian Pliny, the Elder, the island Canaria contained "vast multitudes of dogs of very large size". The connection to dogs is retained in their depiction on the islands' coat-of-arms.

Apparently, archaeological analyses indicate that indigenous peoples were living on the Canary Islands at least 2,000 years ago, possibly 3,000, and that they shared a common origin with the Berbers on the nearby North African Coast. The islands may have been visited by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Carthaginians. King Juba II, Caesar Augustus's Numidian protégé, is credited with discovering the islands for the Western world. From the 14th century onward, numerous visits were made by sailors from Majorca, Portugal and Genoa.

In 1402, the Castilian colonisation of the islands began with the expedition of the French explorers Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle, nobles and vassals of Henry III of Castile. These invasions were "brutal cultural and military clashes between the indigenous population and the Castilians" lasting over a century due to formidable resistance by indigenous Canarians. After the conquest, the Castilians imposed a new economic model, based on single-crop cultivation: first sugarcane; then wine, an important item of trade with England. Gran Canaria was conquered by the Crown of Castile on 6 March 1480, and Tenerife was conquered in 1496, and each had its own governor.

The Canaries' wealth invited attacks by pirates and privateers. Ottoman Turkish admiral and privateer Kemal Reis ventured into the Canaries in 1501, while Murat Reis the Elder captured Lanzarote in 1585. The most severe attack took place in 1599, during the Dutch Revolt. A Dutch fleet of 74 ships and 12,000 men, commanded by Pieter van der Does, attacked the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (the city had 3,500 of Gran Canaria's 8,545 inhabitants).
In 1618 the Barbary pirates from North Africa attacked Lanzarote and La Gomera taking 1000 captives to be sold as slaves. Another noteworthy attack occurred in 1797, when Santa Cruz de Tenerife was attacked by a British fleet under Horatio Nelson on 25 July. The British were repulsed, losing almost 400 men. It was during this battle that Nelson lost his right arm.

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill prepared plans for the British seizure of the Canary Islands as a naval base, in the event of Gibraltar being invaded from the Spanish mainland. The planned operation was known as Operation Pilgrim.

Well that's all folks! Next blog will be posted when we get to the Caribbean unless I can send Mandy an update midway across the Atlantic.

Postscript: On the port yard arm of Nessaru (at the top of the halyard from the first spreader on the mast) there is a small pennant with a red cross on a white background. It is the commissioning pennant from my old submarine HMAS Otway. At sea when the submarine was on the surface, the commissioning pennant was flown from the VHF whip aerial.

Voyage of SY Nessaru - Rota to Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria

08 May 2024 | Puerto Deportivo Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria
Colin Maslen | Sunny and warm
According to Prussian military strategist, Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Molke (1800-1891) "No plan survives first contact with the enemy". In our case, the "enemy" would be adverse wind and weather, the gremlins that cause things to malfunction, orcas, and human error.

Our passage plan (version 11) had us going from Spain to Madeira, but the weather routing options from Predict Wind recommended the Canary Islands, so our plan was amended accordingly. I cancelled our marina booking in Madeira, and then started looking for a suitable marina in the Canaries. There are over 30 ports and marinas in the Canary Islands, and believe it or not, most of them are full and some even have waiting lists! One marina in Las Palmas replied to my booking request as follows: "Good afternoon. In our Marina we do not make reservations, and we are currently full, we do not have available berths for that length." Fortunately I was able to book a berth in a marina at Pasito Blanco on the southern side of Gran Canaria.

After a relaxing few days in Rota, Nessaru departed Rota at 12:00 on Monday 29 April. The marina administration office in Rota had given us an orca "heat map" which showed the areas off the coasts of Spain and Portugal where orcas have attacked, and in some cases sunk, sailing yachts. So we motored at 6 knots to clear the coast and get well out to sea and away from the orca "playgrounds". At 14:40 we shut down the motor, commenced sailing, and shaped our course of 230 degrees for the Canary Islands. We were experiencing winds of 10 to 12 knots, in sea state 3, with a 1 to 2 metre swell, and making good speed at just over 6 knots.

The following day, Tuesday 30 April, was Michael's 71st birthday. Unfortunately the cake shop in Rota was closed on Monday before we sailed, so all Michael got was a birthday card!

During the day we were being set towards the coast of Morocco. I have read about shipwrecks along this very inhospitable coastline and wanted to be well clear of it. At 22:00 we furled the Genoa, left the mainsail on the second reef, and commenced motor sailing. The Raymarine autohelm, henceforth called "George", kept us on a course of 250 degrees for about 10 hours, after which we stopped the motor and resumed sailing.

On Wednesday we experienced our first rain squalls. In the afternoon the barometer began to drop, the wind and sea increased, and it was becoming apparent that we were in for a wild ride. At 19:50, with the Genoa fully furled and the mainsail on the second reef, we were doing 6 to 7 knots. Within a few hours Nessaru was literally surfing with a 3 to 5 metre swell on the port quarter. We reduced the mainsail further to the 3rd reef, and were still doing 7 knots with a 20 knot wind gusting to 30 knots. Unless you have experienced sailing conditions like this, it is hard to imagine how rough it can get in a small boat. Nessaru was pitching and rolling so much that it was very difficult to move about; meals were out of the question and it was impossible to even boil the kettle for a coffee. Steering at the helm was hard work, frequently turning the wheel from wheel-lock to wheel-lock, that is 30 degrees either side, to maintain a heading within about 40 degrees either side of our course. Throughout the night and much of the day, whoever was at the helm was wearing a lifejacket and was lashed in with a safety harness. It was white-knuckle stuff, which we hope we do not experience again!

Even though the ride was very uncomfortable, Nessaru proved to be a good sea boat; she rode the swell and handled the conditions quite well, and only once did a wave crash into the cockpit. However, the following day as the wind and sea began to abate, it became evident that the old mainsail, which we had repaired in Port Ginesta and reinforced for the Atlantic crossing, did not fair so well. The wind had ripped the top four sliders off the mast and there was a small tear in the sail. (The sliders are nylon lugs sewn onto the luff, or leading edge, of the mainsail. They slide up or down in a track on the mast, and essentially secure the mainsail to the mast.) In addition, two of the main sheet blocks (the pullies that help us control the mainsail) had failed; one had almost completely disintegrated!

At 19:00 we lowered the mainsail and lashed it to the boom. To add insult to injury, the shackle on the mainsail halyard had opened, and the halyard was now near the top of the mast and wrapped around the backstay. In other words, it was well out of reach, so that, re-hoisting the mainsail would have been impossible.

We continued sailing towards the Canaries with just the Genoa. The following morning we used the spinnaker pole to set the Genoa, which worked quite well until we accidentally jibed. (To jibe is to shift a fore-and-aft sail from one side of a vessel to the other while sailing before the wind so as to sail on the opposite tack. It can be a dangerous manoeuvre and needs to be carried out with care.) The accidental jibe was my fault; I was so tired that I lost concentration and turned the wheel the wrong way! We then got ourselves in a bit of a muddle. Michael steered while I did my best to disentangle the pole from the Genoa sheets and disconnect it from the clew (bottom corner) of the Genoa. I have to say that handling a heavy spinnaker pole at night on the foredeck of a pitching boat is not easy. We got there eventually, and have decided that from here on we will be more circumspect about using the spinnaker pole at night. With the Genoa now fully furled, we started motoring with George doing the steering, to give ourselves some rest.

Speaking of rest: With a four-hour watch system, by the time we come off watch and turn in and then get up again half an hour before going back on watch, we might get about three hours rest at the most. (It takes about 15 minutes just to get dressed in about three layers of clothing including foul weather clothing and sea boots, together with life jacket and safety harness.) Then there are times when we both have to be up, such as when we are reefing the mainsail or dealing with situations like an accidental jibe. Rest does not necessarily mean sleep. In heavy weather when the boat is pitching and rolling, sleep does not come easily no matter how tired one might be.

For meals, we tend to have a light breakfast such as muesli, and for lunch something which is easily prepared such as noodle soup in a cup (I am already tired of noodles!). For dinner during the Second Dog Watch, we do our best to have a decent, cooked meal, usually followed by tinned fruit. Sometimes we just cook something pre-prepared, a pizza for example, and if it is not too rough, we might go to a bit more trouble and be a bit more creative. Occasionally Michael makes an omelette, and I have to say that Michael's omelettes are the best!

Now who would have thought that, in a big ccean, the likelihood of a solitary yacht being on a collision course with a merchant ship would be anything but very low? Yet it happened to us three times in less than 48 hours. In accordance with the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, commonly referred to as The Rule of the Road, power-driven vessels are obliged to give way to sailing vessels. (There are exceptions to this rule, such as when a power-driven vessel is navigating a narrow channel and/or is constrained by its draft, exceptions which do not apply on the open ocean.) Yet on each of the three above-mentioned occasions, the merchant ships took no avoiding action whatsoever, and it was up to Nessaru to alter course and pass safely astern. It makes you wonder about the competency of some of the crews of these vessels.

On Sunday morning, 5 May, we had our first change of time zone, and retarded clocks by one hour. We also resumed sailing with the Genoa to conserve fuel. Later that evening we furled the Genoa for the last time, started the motor, and rounded the south east corner of Gran Canaria. We were not due into the marina until the following morning, so we slowed down and motored on an east-west "racetrack" until 07:20, when we altered course to 020 degrees for Pasito Blanco. At 08:45 we were at the refuelling wharf, and by 10:00 we are in our allocated berth, B23, and so glad to be there!

For most of this passage from Rota to Pasito Blanco we saw very little sea life until we reached the Canary Islands where we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins. The two exceptions were a sea turtle that Michael saw, and a small squid which we found on the fore deck one morning. Thankfully, we did not see any orcas.

Our route from Port Ginesta to Pasito Blanco was 1,344 nautical miles (2,489 kilometres). The distance actually sailed would be somewhat longer because we are at the mercy of the wind and our track often deviates from side to side of our planned route.

Before leaving Port Ginesta, we had contracted South East Asia (S.E.A.) Sails (Thailand) to make a new mainsail and ship it to Shelter Bay Marina in Panama for us to collect on arrival there. The sail has since been completed and duly despatched to Panama with DHL. Since our arrival in Pasito Blanco, I had a very frustrating time trying to contact DHL so as to arrange for the shipment to be redirected to Gran Canaria. DHL were no help whatsoever! In some instances, when I asked to speak to someone in English rather than Spanish, they just hung up.

Isn't it a shame that so many large organisations become so disinterested in providing any genuine customer service, unless, perhaps, you happen to represent a large corporate client. Sadly, it is often nearly impossible to even get to talk to a customer service representative, let alone speak to one who might say, and genuinely mean, "How can I help you?"

Fortunately there are still some companies around who will try to help resolve a problem. Eventually, after giving up on DHL, I searched for a freight forwarder and got to speak with Julio Sánchez at Panamá Soluciones Logísticas Intl (PSLI). What a refreshing change! After advising me regarding the process for authoring PSLI to take carriage of the shipment from DHL, Julio added, "beyond that point we will handle everything with ease."

We will now wait in Pasito Blanco until our new mainsail arrives. There is still work to be done, such as replacing the mainsail halyard and cleaning the boat. Michael has already completed some more maintenance on the motor - he just started it up as I was writing this - and it is working like a charm! We also plan to hire a car and have a look around the island.

Voyage of SY Nessaru - Almeria to Rota, Spain

28 April 2024 | Rota, Andalucia, Spain
Colin Maslen | Fair, westerly wind 10 knots
After refuelling, Nessaru departed Almeria at 10:00 on Tuesday 23 April. On completion of a series of slow circles to re-calibrate the autohelm and windvane display, we set sail on a course of 215 degrees. At 14:08 we turned to 260 degrees to shape our course for the Strait of Gibraltar. With a light breeze of 5 to 6 knots, we made slow but steady progress, averaging about 2 to 3 knots, and occasionally reaching 5 knots when the wind briefly increased. The weather was clear and at night we were sailing under a full moon.

The following morning a large pod of dolphins came to play around the yacht. Their displays and antics were a joy to watch!

Unfortunately the wind did not stay with us; in the afternoon it was completely calm with sea state 0 - "sea like a mirror"- and we were going nowhere! So we furled the Genoa, lowered the Mainsail and started motoring.

There were some days at sea when it seemed as if we were the only vessel in the Mediterranean, with not another vessel in sight. But as we approached Gibraltar the shipping density increased markedly. At 22:00 on Wednesday night I counted fifteen ships, and then stopped counting. From 02:00 on Thursday morning we commenced our transit through the Straight of Gibraltar, maintaining a westerly course along the northern boundary of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) which establishes separate navigation lanes for eastbound and westbound shipping (and, yes, before anyone asks, we were in the correct, westbound lane!). It was an interesting night-time experience, with some very large ships overtaking us or even crossing the transit lanes at very close quarters. Michael and I were both "on watch" for most of the transit, with one of us steering and the other navigating and monitoring the VHF radio. We had occasional spells when we took turns at having short "cat naps" in the saloon.

At 04:00 the following morning we were directly south of the Rock of Gibraltar. At its narrowest, the Strait of Gibraltar is only about eight nautical miles, and it seemed a little bit strange to think that while we could see the lights of Gibraltar and Spain to starboard and the lights of Morocco to port, we were effectively passing between two giant continents in our little boat.

By sunrise (07:50) we were through the Strait, out of the TSS and the Mediterranean and heading into the Atlantic Ocean. Having motored for so long, we thought it would be prudent to refuel and so, after reviewing our options, we set a north-westerly course for Rota on the Spanish mainland just north of Cadiz. In addition, we were still waiting for our insurance certificate and would have been uninsured if we had ventured any further off the coasts of Spain or Portugal.

We tried sailing for a while but the wind was light and shifting unpredictably; sometimes the windvane was turning through 360 degrees! We also encountered strange swirls in the water and eddies as we approached Cape Trafalgar. It was weird, and all the while we were thinking about orcas. Fortunately, we did not see any.

Then the wind came on with a vengeance, accompanied by swell from the west that seemed determined to drive us towards Cape Trafalgar where the chart showed some nasty looking rocks and shoals well to seaward of the cape. We tacked away from the coast to gain some sea room, but when we tried to resume a north-westerly course, the wind shifted as if even more determined to drive us towards a lee shore. We were making no progress towards Rota, so at 20:00 we started motor sailing with reefed sails, on a course of 320 degrees. Some time later we furled the Genoa and lowered the Mainsail completely.

By this time Nessaru was pounding inthttps://www.sailblogs.com/admin/blog_manager/post_edit.phpo a very choppy sea with a 2 to 3-metre swell on the port bow, with the wind at about 12 to 15 knots, gusting to maybe 20 knots. To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement; as Michael's describe it: "It was brutal". Then at 03:00 the engine stopped! I took over the helm and altered course downwind to settle the boat while Michael worked by torchlight to clear the fuel lines into the injectors and restart the motor. We were both very relieved when the motor started up again and we were able to turn around and resume our heading for Rota.

By now we were both very tired and looking forward to our arrival in Rota at 10:00 in the morning on Friday 26 April. After the incident earlier that morning, I think we were also both relieved to be almost in the shelter of a marina and wondering what else could possibly go wrong. Then, as we rounded the Puerto Rota break-water we ran onto a sandbar that stretched halfway across the entrance. Unfortunately our depth sounder display is impossible to read in broad daylight and we have plans to replace it in Panama. On the plus side, we were coming in on a flood (rising) tide, and were able to get off the sandbar without too much difficulty while avoiding the breakwater, and were soon berthed at the refuelling wharf. When I checked in at the marina office, I asked about the sandbar and was told that it had built up recently and they were waiting for a dredge to clear the channel. We were allocated a berth and about half an hour later were safely secured in marina row D, berth 9.

That evening, after hot showers followed some time later by cold beers, we found a gorgeous little Italian restaurant with lots of artwork and excellent food and wine. Mandy would have loved it!

Rota is one of the most delightful Spanish villages one could possibly imagine, full of old-world charm, with narrow, paved and cobbled streets, lined with beautiful buildings with decorative facades and wrought iron balconies. The churches and chapels are just amazing, and even a little bakery window was worthy of a photo (check them out in the Photo Gallery). And no graffiti!

On Saturday morning we found our breakfast bar, La Concha, which serves coffee with delicious bread rolls with butter and marmalade; it also has WIFI which the marina does not; it is now our "local" breakfast venue and evening beer garden (which is where I am now uploading this blog).

On arrival in Rota we received an email from the insurance broker, advising us that the insurer in London has agreed to provide cover for the remainder of our voyage. I subsequently paid the premium and we are hoping to receive the insurance certificate on Monday or Tuesday at the latest, which is when we are planning to depart for Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, 710 nautical miles to the south.

Meanwhile, we are making the most of an opportunity to clean the boat and carry out some maintenance, do some washing, and get some rest.

Voyage of SY Nessaru - Almeria to Gran Caneria

22 April 2024 | Almeria
Colin Maslen | Sunny, SW wind 10 Knots
Oh, the sweet, sweet sound of a diesel firing up in the morning!

In addition to the mechanical problems, an emerging issue since leaving Port Ginesta has been the ignition switch, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, with the latter condition becoming more frequent. After unbolting the motor control panel, we discovered that some of the terminals were either loose or corroded, or both. Replacing them with new crimped terminals seems to have done the trick, and this morning the motor started repeatedly without any trouble.

Yesterday, Sunday, we took time out from our trials and tribulations, and walked to the Alcazaba , an extensive Moorish fortress which rests high up on a hill overlooking the sea and the city of Almería. This huge complex was built by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman II in the latter half of the 10th century, although archaeologists have found evidence of earlier structures on the site dating back to the Roman Empire. It was once a formidable military fortification with a triple line of curtain like walls and fantastic crenelated battlements. The largest Moorish defensive fortress in Spain, it was partly modelled after the Alhambra. (The Alhambra is technically the largest Muslim building in Spain, but is usually considered a palace, not a fortress.)

With its strategic location, Alcazaba was able to control the four cardinal directions, with special particular interest looking south, toward the sea, the very same sea that would bring not only conflict to the fortress but also provide an abundance of riches from Mediterranean trade. This was during the golden age of Almería in the 11th century, when there was a popular saying at the time, "When Almería was Almería, Granada was but its farmhouse, Malaga its gateway, and Murcia its garden."

Many films that have been shot at the Alcazaba, including Indiana Jones and Conan the Barbarian. The Alcazaba also stars as Dorne on the HBO series Game of Thrones, and the nearby Tabernas desert was home to the spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s.

The scale of the Alcazaba is enormous, and with its crenelated walls it is quite forbidding. Yet inside the complex there are gardens with water features that are also quite peaceful and beautiful. When we walked through it, I could not but help wonder what romances, intrigues and political plots took place there over a century ago.

On a completely different topic, namely the name of our yacht, Nessaru: Our yacht broker told us that Nessaru didn’t mean anything. But when we emailed the previous owner before departing Port Ginesta, she informed us that Nesaru is the Great Sky Spirit of the Arikara culture, sometimes called the Great Mystery; he was the master of all creation. So I looked that up. The Arikara tribe, also known as Sahnish or Ree, are a Native American people related to the Pawnee, whose traditional homeland is in present-day North Dakota. Historically, they were semi-nomadic people who primarily lived in earth lodges along the Missouri River. And Nesaru, or Nishanu, is indeed the Arikara name for the Great Spirit or God. Literally, "Neshanu Natchitak" means "the Chief Above." For some interesting information about the Arikara people, go to https://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-arikara/

Change of plan: After looking at various weather predictions and routing options, we have decided against going to Madeira and will instead set course for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. Our navigation plan has a course of 270 degrees from Gibraltar until we are well past the Traffic Separation Scheme, then we will alter course to Port (turn left) to 225 Degrees to the Canaries.

During my research on the Arikara, I found a photo of an Arikara chief, Sitting Bear. He looks very dignified, wise and auspicious; I hope Sitting Bear looking over us as we commence the next leg of our voyage.

Sailing at 10:00 on Tuesday; next update after 1 May when we get to Gran Canaria.
Vessel Name: Nessaru
Vessel Make/Model: 1991 Jeanneau Sun Charm 39
Hailing Port: Port Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain, changing to Mooloolaba, Australia
Crew: Colin Maslen, Michael Stewart and Gary Humphries
About:
Colin and Michael are retired Navy Commanders. Colin was a submariner, but also has above-water sailing experience in Australian coastal waters, the Mediterranean and the UK. [...]
Extra:
Nessaru is a 1991 Jeanneau Sun Charm 39, with a length of 39.33 ft or 11.99 metres and a beam of 12.76 ft or 3.89 metres. A Jacques Faroux design, the Jeanneau Sun Charm 39 was introduced in 1989 as a fast cruiser with excellent accommodation. These older Jeanneaus share a family resemblance to [...]
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Nessaru's Photos - Main
10 Photos
Created 22 June 2024
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Through the Strait of Gibraltar, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, passing between two continents
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Delayed in Port Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain
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SY Nessaru in Port Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain
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Preparations for the voyage of SY Nessaru continue in Spain and back home in Australia
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Nessaru undergoes a major refit
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Finding our yacht in Spain; Nessaru in Port Ginesta, Barcelona; Barcelona - the Sangria Familia Basilica by Gaudi
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Created 4 January 2024