Holland to the Costa del Sol/Costa Blanco border, a summary; reflections on a journey in retrospect.
29 September 2016 | Madrid on the way back to London
Mart the Fart, with my usual editor, the weather is sublime and the water is warm
➢ Distance travelled: The planning sheet said 2750NM but you never sail in a straight line and we went up rivers, crossed to Africa and did several other excursions, so 3200NM (approx. 5800km) is probably a good number. Yes I could go to the log book and add up each day, but I am no longer on the boat and not planning to do that.
➢ Engine hours: 260 hours which at 5 knots means we motored about 1300NM but realistically some of this was running the engine at a standstill, motor sailing and/or doing less than 5 knots, so I will discount that to 35% of the moving time on the motor. This number still surprises me, as it seemed like a lot more sailing.
➢ Cheapest diesel: Gibraltar at 43p per litre
➢ Average speed, pretty much 5 knots
➢ Fastest SOG: 9 knots in the Straight of Gibraltar. Worth noting that when we lifted, the people on the hard next to us had hit a whale in the Straight (the chart warns you) damaging their keel, and were taking on water. The surveyor was looking at their boat and they were awaiting news from the insurance company.
➢ Most memorable sails:
o Dunkirk to Dover, all on a single spring tide
o The whole Biscay crossing, 3½ days and never straying more than 5NM off the direct line drawn on the chart. Blessed with ideal weather and wind direction
o Barbate to Gibraltar, with the current and a following wind, perhaps an experience enhanced by the fact that this was the leg that achieved the goal of reaching the Med.
➢ Scary moments:
o Putting my hand into the wind generator blades on day one and ending up with >20 stitches in my index finger. Lucky not to lose it, lucky to still be able to play the guitar.
o Autopilot motor not disengaging as we came into Tourquay.
o Helford River to L'Abewrac'h crossing. Dawn breaking in thick unpredicted fog and doing 7 knots with 400m visibility. The fog cleared suddenly as we closed within 5NM of the coast that is a rock garden of note. France welcomed us with bright sunshine.
o Overnight Cascais to Lagos (Portugal). The wind was predicted to reach a maximum of 17 knots and die to 10 knots by 19h00. It built all evening reaching over 30 knots at 00:30. There was a short steep wind swell on the aft quarter that had the boat all over the place and it was a battle to find a more comfortable point of sail on a 3rd reef and severely reduced staysail. We were 5 on board and I was thinking I should not have taken these people out! Then just before the girls' watch, in a period of 10 minutes the wind went from 26 to less than 10 knots and the girls motored for the rest of the night.
o Of lesser scariness
• The confounded fishing pots all the way down the Atlantic coast, miraculously we missed literally thousands without getting a rope on rudder keel or around the prop.
• A 10m section of an old discarded mooring hawser caught on the prop off Cabo Trafalgar. Tom Jakins to the rescue, diving it off. Luckily we were not motoring when we picked it up.
• Trying to pick up a lazy line in 30 knots of cross wind after a lee-shore approach to Marbella. Luckily we had the boys onboard and it was not just Veronica and I.
➢ Most beautiful places, not to be missed:
o Poole harbour, behind Brownsea island
o All the estuaries in Devon and Cornwall, Dartmouth, Salcombe, River Fowey, Upper reaches of the River Fal and the Helford River.
o Archipel de Glenans (France)
o Odet River Brittany and the town of Quimper
o The beach and anchorage at Île d' Houat
o Vilaine River and La Roche-Bernard
o La Rochelle
o All the Rias of Galacia, Spain
o Isla Onza and Isla Ceis National park, Galacia
o The Doura River and the city of Porto
o Ilha Culatra (near Faro on the Algarve), not classic beauty but different and simple beauty
o The River Gaudiana (Spanish Portuguese border)
o The Rock, Gibraltar
o The city of Ronda, Andalucía.
➢ To be missed:
o Calais in a yacht
o Figueria da Foz, the marina, not the town (although difficult due to distance between harbours of refuge)
o Barbate and Adra, Andalucia (soulless marinas, in survival mode)
➢ Issues and problems (none that did not make it worth it)
o Wind Strut at top of mast, so no wind information until replaced in the Helford River
o One OP40 contoller on helm, kaput
o New VHF radio due to position information not displaying and therefore not sent in the case of an emergency/Mayday
o I wrecked a solar panel charge controller by checking the fuse and scratching through the printed circuit while trying to reinsert fuse in the dark of the rudder locker. Poor design Victron.
o Autopilot motor, water ingress and would not disengage, refurbished at cost of 700 euro.
o 3 days before the end and the lift out, the Simrad Nav computer would not boot. Taken away by the Simrad technician, still awaiting an outcome.
o Brexit........not amused
➢ Seasick incidents
o Zero.....especially proud of Josie Thorne who had never been offshore keel-boat sailing before and dealt with some testing conditions down the length of Portugal
➢ Thank you
o Everyone at Strijensas marina near Rotterdam. Best wintering deal and brilliant, helpful team
o The doctor who stitched my finger in Holland
o Andy at MEI for helping sort the electronics
o Andy Brock in Hamble for fitting the Hydrovane
o Janet Bradley, of King and Queen fame in Hamble, for showing Surf African hospitality to fellow Surf Africans
o Helford River yacht club for making us feel at home as we waited 9 days for a weather window
o All the crew along the way and especially Aidan McKenna across Biscay
o Marc Dhalluin, for forgiving me for not making the trans-Alps ride (stupid of me not to realize in advance, when you would have too many balls in the air) and for arranging a substitute
o Vikki Cardoso for so generously treating us to a traditional Algave dinner and bringing so many delicacies to the boat in Villamoura
o Tracy Strauli for visiting us in Marabella and reminding us that no matter where you live your roots are where your roots are.
o To Frances and Christel from Almeria Bike tours for putting us up for the night at their home/Bike Station and showering us with Andalucian hospitality, on the night after we lifted the boat out and before our return to London.
o Last but not least, Veronica, first mate supreme.