Revised: 28 March 2012

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"Spearhead" News - the cruise's first stage

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Foreword
Spearhead is an Achilles 9 metre, built in 1977 and completed from kits provided by the builders, Butler Mouldings, by the Sanders family at their then home near Southampton. I bought her from David Sanders in March 2006, lying on the Hamble, and with a lot of assistance from the selling agents (Trefor and Tziona Jones) and Brian at The Elephant Boatyard, got her into a sailable condition by the following October. Skipping all the details here, I have effectively a mechanically new boat in the old, very sound hull, but there are still a lot of desirable inessentials left out for the present, not to mention such matters as sail renewals for the future. The objective in going to all this trouble and expense is to do some further blue water cruising, returning home by other means to Oban for a time each summer and if otherwise required, but leaving Spearhead in some delectable location ready to continue. Ultimately we will probably sail home to Oban, so this could be thought of as just a slightly longer-than-usual delivery trip.

From - to logs 9/10/06 - 28/5/07
The Channel and Biscay
Iberia
Lanzarote
Fuerteventura
Gran Canaria
Heading back north

The start 9th-10th October 2006 - Data
Shortly after High Water on Monday, 9th October we cast off from The Elephant Boatyard, motored down the river to fill the diesel tank, and then set off in earnest to see how far we could get in a month, as I had to be back home for 11th November. Initial progress wasn't brilliant and we had to motor against the changing tide to anchor temporarily off Yarmouth. After a short kip, it was with some reluctance that we continued after the 0048 forecast, South backing Southeast 5-6, which didn't sound any too encouraging, especially as it was raining. To make the best of it, I decided to head West and round the far corner of the Casquets TSS, where I set a waypoint, before heading directly for Ushant.

Fortunately, the wind was not as strong as forecast (it even had holes in it) so we just plugged along on course under full sail. Two whales were seen heading in the opposite direction in close formation. Approaching the waypoint that evening, the genoa shook off its tack shackle and I had to run briskly downwind whilst finding and fitting a replacement, so we overshot the exact point by nearly 2 miles. Then I altered course to port, onto the rhumbline of 220 degrees, close reaching on port tack under Hydrovane, with the tiller lashed. Both genoa and main were part-reefed as the wind was now at the lower end of Force 5. That was shortly after 1900 – masthead tricolour light on.

A fright in the night 11th October 2006
The evening passed quickly enough – there was quite a lot of shipping to keep the Sea-Me busy, and it seemed to be working because nobody came within a mile, not even the fishing boats. More interesting was the weather because there was quite a spectacular electrical storm in the direction of the Channel Islands and occasionally overhead. The wind eased to a 4, then 3 and I considered unreefing, but rejected the idea because we weren’t in a hurry, there might come a squall from the thunderstorm, and anyway it improved visibility from inside. We were making about 4 knots and exhibiting only the masthead light. With nothing in sight, I decided to take "20 winks", woke up with the kitchen timer and took a look round from inside, without seeing anything. I checked the course and track – still bang on the rhumbline. The Sea-Me showed that there must be a few radars around. It was just after 01.10 BST. I was sitting on the port saloon berth considering what best to do next when a very loud horn blast galvanised me into the cockpit.

One look round the genoa showed a large vessel behind it coming up Channel. By the time I had reached the tiller, I had rejected the possibility of tacking - it takes too long with the self-steering and meant turning to port and sailing along with the threat. Also, we were reaching, so could not be sure of completing the tack. Whatever I did with the helm, after I had unfastened it, would be immediately counteracted by the self-steering anyway, so I went straight to the pushpit and turned the vane, which I never clamp solid, through 90 degrees. Fortunately the Hydrovane's own rudder was up to this challenge and we immediately started to bear away to starboard. Meanwhile the ship's bow had appeared round my forestay (still hooting) and I became concerned as to how wide her beam was... I leaped back to the tiller, freed it and used the main rudder to finish off the turn, finding that we had less than a boatlength clearance when we came to the parallel hull. We continued thus down her side, and I waved at the bridge but couldn't make anyone out. When we got to her stern I was unable to read her name (other than that it seemed very long, possibly three words) against the deck lights. There was no lettering down the side; she was not heavily laden. After due thought, I would estimate her size as approximately 90,000 tons. At the time she seemed to go on for ever.

I hadn't seen her because, looking under the genoa, her lights were 'way above my plane of vision, so I was very grateful for the warning that was given me, late though it was. Had it been any later, or had I been unable for some reason to get to the controls as quickly as I did, or indeed done the wrong thing in the initial surprise, I would almost certainly not be telling you about it now. However, I still wonder how the ship came to be in such a potentially disastrous situation in view of my use of the radar target enhancer. We should have been displayed as a target on his screen for the best part of an hour. Had we been “cluttered out”? It didn’t seem all that rough to me at the time. Could we have been “cancelled” because no masthead light could be made out? Possible, but unlikely. Perhaps he thought that we were a smaller motor vessel on his port side, and he therefore was the Stand-on vessel? Could be…. but not very convincing. The most likely scenario is that there happened to be no-one on the bridge looking out in the right direction until the last moment – so my survival (and Spearhead’s) is down to pure, fortunate chance. Two singlehanders crossing?!

Ushant - Camariñas 12th - 15th October 2006
Having survived that unscathed, we passed inside Ushant the following night and scooted across Biscay in another 3 days. I then thought to keep on going and see where we finished up, but as we came to (the very appropriately named) Cabo Villano the weather veered S and freshened up, and the furling genoa wouldn't. So it seemed wisest to pull into Camariñas and straighten things out, and it blew for 5 days. I met up with other boats heading south, notably a Scots crew from Lossiemouth in a Finngulf 37, and thereafter we seemed to be tied together with elastic. They were heading for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the ARC.

Camariñas - Bayona (or Baiona in the local lingo) 20th - 21st October 2006 - Data

A small weather window appeared after the 5 days and we dashed forth, round Cabo Finisterre, and then stretched for Bayona. The "window" broke down before I got there, and blew the windicator off at the masthead, rained about 2 inches worth in half an hour and blotted out all the lights of the town that had been clearly visible earlier. However, this time the genoa did furl and thanks to GPS, I knew both where I was and which way to go, so we arrived to find serried ranks of small boat fishermen anchored in the light of early dawn in the lee of the parador busily "enjoying" their sport. It took another 5 days of really quite Argyllian weather before we were able to sally forth again. Cars were washed off the streets in one of the suburbs and piled up like dominoes on end against a gatepost, according to the local paper, so clearly things weren't quite normal.


Bayona - Cascais 26th - 28th October 2006 - Data
The next leg started while the Spanish National Match-racing Championship was in progress and although there was a reasonable, if shifty, breeze in the bay, there proved to be insufficient to progress in the open Atlantic. After 6 hours I had to choose between going back in or motoring until we came to a reasonable breeze and I chose the latter. We found the wind after about 5 hours, by which time we were off Portugal. We had taken a course for Cabo Carvoeiro (Peniche) and just kept going down this, while the wind miraculously put us on a broad reach. After 2 nights we were approaching Peniche (and just past Nazaré) with the breeze increasing to the point where I was considering shortening sail, but it then failed almost completely and we finally ended, as we had started, motoring in for about 4 hours to finish at Cascais. Altogether a rather disgraceful performance, but it did get us in just before midnight.
Cascais - Lagos 1st - 3rd November 2006 - Data
At Cascais the problem with the weather was the reverse, that the forecasters could only see one window of wind, 3 or 4 days away, and it was on the nose. So I gave up on the original intention of making Lanzarote before 9th November and sought a flight home from Faro instead. It turned out that the only one to Scotland was on 8th November (at the agreeable price of €77) to Glasgow, so I seized on that. Since it was by then 1st November, we had to keep moving and we (& the F37) set forth with replenished tanks on a flat sea. After Cabo Espichel, lo and behold, some wind did appear - right on the nose of course, and we enjoyed an 84 -mile beat to Cabo Sao Vicente. I was very glad of the Hydrovane, which allowed me to dodge most of the showers. And the reach in to Lagos passed pleasantly rapidly. Although I do tend to get sick in the early stages of longer passages, I'm glad to report that (so far!) this hasn't happened on Spearhead - so perhaps the motion is better or slower, or something. But then I have to cook and, on this leg, it became quite a problem as the cooker kept hitting the bump stops - probably I should reef down a bit first.

Lagos - Faro 5th - 6th November 2006 - Data
In Lagos much of the time was taken up with asking round about costs and locations for parking while I went home. The person with the most authoritative answers proved to be a Belgian and he put me onto Faro itself - I had previously thought Olhao the likeliest spot. I went there at 2 minutes' notice by bus to check up, but arrived too late (it being a Saturday afternoon) to glean much except where the yard was, and the combination of the gate lock! On the Sunday the weather was perfect with a moderate southerly breeze and I left for Albufeira, while the F37 was just going to clear itself from the EU at Portimao.
By the time I arrived at my destination, the wind had backed and freshened and the "big" light and port pierhead lights were nowhere to be seen, and the wind was blowing straight into what was probably, but not certainly, the entrance, so things were a bit fraught..... However I persisted, doublechecked and motored in cautiously and the red light came on once I was inside! Then it was too rough at the reception pontoon (and no light in the office anyway), so I found myself a berth inside behind a promontory and went to seek food. There were only two let restaurants/bars in the whole boarded-up development and the food wasn't brilliant despite me being the only customer. Then there was the security gate to get round, and in the morning 90 minutes of torrential thunderstorm and when I waded in full oilies to the office they charged me €18 for the pleasure, so you will gather that it is unlikely ever to be my favourite place.

Albufeira that was! To compound matters, the wind was still blowing straight in the entrance at Force 5 and I had just 4 hours to catch HW at the entrance to Faro some 20 miles away, so we motored the whole way, delivery trip style and quite the hardest work the Yanmar has been called upon to do so far. At the entrance a big wave caught us and the autopilot (we have both) broke its teak mounting block, but inside all was calm and orderly and we followed the buoys up to the town, where I tried to find a spot to anchor beside some moorings, only to go aground, softly, twice. So I borrowed a mooring and 'phoned the boatyard and all went well thenceforth.
We were fitted into quite a busy schedule with the boatlift at high tide on Tuesday and I had sufficient time for a wipe-down below and check on the sterngear that evening, before flying home on Wednesday morning (8th November). Within their tidal constraints the yard (Nave Pegos or Bruce's Boatyard) seem very efficient, adaptable and polyglot - and they have ambitions for expansion with a dredger they are doing up beside the boatlift. Apart from the minimum of paperwork they positively do not keep keys, so security should be good. We'll see when I get back - provisionally scheduled for about 10th January. There must be about 50 cruisers in the yard, some live-aboard, but since it is based on a derelict industrial site, facilities tend to be simple to primitive, albeit in working order.

At Faro 10th - 30th January 2007
I returned to Spearhead as scheduled on 10th January and found all in good order and the weather quite clement. In my luggage I brought a "boat" laptop computer with WiFi and will be taking it with us in the hope that I will be able to maintain this website as I go, and a lot more easily than on my last trip this way aboard Spring Run, when it all had to be done through internet cafés or libraries. Since then I've also got a digital camera, and hope to be in a position to use it when something interesting arises. I was intending to touch up the bits of keel where rust is coming through, then sail for the Canaries, but first set about rebedding the main windows in hope of curing minor but annoying leaks, particularly in the traditional position over my bunk! I had hardly started on this when I found that the Perspex sheet had cracked right across, so a complete replacement was now necessary. Honestly, sir, I'd hardly touched it and certainly didn't hear anything splitting! This seemed to be a reasonable, if unforeseen, opportunity to replace it with the "proper", dark-smoked sheet as fitted originally by Butlers to these boats so, as soon as I had it off, I sought out the local supplier with the pieces tucked underneath me arm. To cut a long story short, daily promises of "4 o'clock tomorrow" slid back to "4 o'clock Friday" and then it transpired that it would very probably take at least a month (they only make it big enough in Germany) but I could have it in clear at 10 o'clock tomorrow. No prizes are offered for guessing which offer I took - but it had taken from the 11th to the 20th before I got the replacement finally in my hands.
Meanwhile of course I had to cover up the holes to keep the weather out, and otherwise prepare the cabin side to take it, then get on with the other jobs, such as rubbing down the keel, undercoating, filling, rubbing down again, more undercoating and finally antifouling to match the rest of the hull. Then there's been some re-stowing, electrical improvement, and the opposite side window to make to match the new one.... Former acquaintances of the boat will note that the rich purple windows are now a thing of the past, because the surrounds to the actual cut-outs inside the Perspex are now all black, so that from a small distance, hopefully, it all looks like the dark glass originally intended. As of Friday, 26th January, we were booked for relaunching this morning, but another boat (launched only yesterday) somehow in this marshy and muddy lagoon managed to hit a rock and returned to the boatlift with a displaced keel and corresponding severe leak, so we can't be done now till Monday. The weather, meanwhile, although remaining mostly bright, has taken a turn for the cooler, with decidedly chilly starlit nights - almost freezing. I'd rather be out on the warmer water than perched in the yard any longer.

A little pictorial treatise on storks, which I rather like - nice, tidy, serious birds - and it seems they rather like us humans!
Once launched and straightened out, present intentions are to head for the Canaries again; we may go to Las Palmas first and "do" the western islands first before returning to Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, where I'm to meet Norwegian friends in late March. Then back towards Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Come April or May, I guess I'll have to go home for a month to sort out house and garden, but at this stage I doubt if I'll be launching Spring Run for the summer. See how we go - I might not like the Med! I gather it gets rather crowded in the high season anyway.
Faro - Vilamoura 30th January 2007 - Data
Spearhead was re-launched on Monday, 29th January in pleasant conditions and led out to the moorings off the town by Bruce in his launch, followed by the rockbanger (now repaired) and then we came third. Due to my not having enough folding cash money, it was necessary to stay there, row ashore and get some more from a hole-in-the-wall, then return to the yard to pay Bruce, but he had disappeared in search of something for his new super boatlift. So I returned aboard and spent the rest of the day and 2 hours the following morning sewing a padding line to the luff of the genoa by hand. Having completed that, the genoa was set up on its foil on the forestay, and then we waited for Bruce, expected at high tide about lunchtime. But he didn't appear so it became necessary to go in search of him before the tide fell too far... We just made it back to the yard and back out to the moorings with Spearhead's keel ploughing the occasional furrow in the unseen mud below the surface, then I stuck the dinghy on the foredeck, hoisted the main, and continued motoring down the river to the sea, the sea at last!

There, having dodged the worst of the overfalls outside the entrance, we set full sail and headed west for Vilamoura. This was because that is where the nearest Yanmar agent is, and the new engine was rapidly approaching 50 hours' running time when, to maintain its guarantee, it has to be checked-over and serviced. Also, having failed to get the WiFi in the laptop to work in Faro, I wanted to try somewhere a bit more with-it. Returning to the sail here, all did not go very well because, with about nine miles to go, the weather played up with a front of thundery showers and a veering wind, which did something extraordinary and managed to catch the Hydrovane off-guard for the first time ever, then I went to the heads and got (slightly) seasick, and finally the GPS, although it was receiving lots of satellite signals, began to fail to calculate the resulting fixes. I decided that this voyage should be terminated before anything worse went wrong and we motored-in for another hour, finally arriving in the dark at 8.48 pm, so we spent the night on the reception pontoon. Today, Wednesday, the engineering part has been successfully completed and the WiFi problem is beginning to be cracked (although I still can't send eMails), and perhaps tomorrow the GPS situation will be in hand too. At least, tonight, we are plugged into luxurious mains electricity and can indulge in lots of lights and computer charging aboard! The nearest point of Lanzarote is now only 541 nautical miles away on a bearing of 211° - perhaps we'll get there yet.

Vilamoura - La Graciosa 6th to 13th February 2007 - Data
With our engine checked, a new GPS "active antenna" installed in place of the old Decca aerial on the pushpit and the replacement Hawk windicator vane properly mounted on the VHF aerial (it had been lacking since our arrival in Bayona) at the masthead, we found the morning of Tuesday, 6th February, looked set fair for a sail with mainly blue sky and a modest northerly breeze. So we departed our berth and booked out at the office, then thought to take a look at the latest weather forecasts in the (free) internet room adjacent. Ooh-er - slight error here,... I should have done that first - but it's a long walk round from berth C8; that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. Said forecast showed a little low running into the Morroccan coast, with resulting SW winds up to Force 6 but, looking at it carefully, it then evaporated and NE winds would come in, starting first close to the African coast. So we went initially pretty well sticking to the rhumb-line, then slowly forced off to the East of it, then relying on the forecast carrying on until we actually crossed the 20 metre sounding off Cap de Mazagan (S of Casablanca). It did get somewhat wet 'n windy while this was going on, and at one stage on the Wednesday afternoon, when the genoa had been eased to reef it further, the leech tabling burst its stitches, so a sail change became necessary before really serious damage ensued. This could have been quite nasty, with what seem like several acres of genoa having to be unfurled, hauled down, detached from its various ropes and then taken astern for stowage, but fortunately the weather treated me kindly and got no worse and inside 2 hours we were beating more happily along under the Working Jib instead. Things inside got only moderately damp and window leakages were negligible. Almost every day we had visitations of dolphins in schools of up to 10 and I must get some means of identifying the species because there seem to be several on this run and it would be nice to know which was what.
Anyway, the stratagem of sticking closer to Africa seemed to work, and after a low point on Thursday, things improved to a really magical night of stars on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday we were mostly running goose-winged with the jib but on the Monday, emboldened by very gentle conditions, I experimented for the first time with the cruising 'chute and had it up before sunrise and down only at sunset. This is quite a colourful sail and appeared to cause quite a lot of curiosity amongst the denizens of the deep. We had a couple of dolphins, who didn't stay after earlier visits, and I was just thinking "That's odd..." when the reason became apparent in the form of a pilot whale. He cruised up from astern, then took up station mostly on our port beam - the side the 'chute was on - and stayed for over an hour. Mostly he came up very much on station, but once on the starboard side, and once he came up close astern, passing diagonally to the left. Since I was sitting on the pushpit, camera in hand, awaiting the next appearance, I got sprayed with whale breath (I'm sure deliberately) and sniffed to see if it was as fishy as its reputation - but either this was a whale free of halitosis or my sense of smell is even worse than I thought: I couldn't distinguish anything. Leaping back and forth to the backstay so often, I thought I had better make it more comfortable to hang on to, so fitted it with a plastic roller same as those fitted to the shrouds and lifelines on Spring Run. I was so engaged with this that I think my pilot took the huff at being ignored - I heard him make a fairly close pass and that was the last of him!
Now I should make the great confession - I was running the engine for 2 hours every day to charge the batteries. The extra electronic gear has to be kept running if it is to be any use and I resolved after my bulk-carrier incident that there was to be no sailing about this time without the appropriate lights (and the nights get darker even in summer as one goes south). Actual timing of the charging is left to circumstances, but is usually about sunset; I have to put the engine into gear to get the revs up to a useful level (the disengagement knob has been seized since long before my time - that's a little job to be done somewhere); initially I tried it at 2500 rpm, and have now settled on 2000 rpm which gives about 4½ knots if we aren't doing that already. I can then "make free" with the electricity and charge about lit up like a cruise liner - for a little while anyway!

We reverted to jib for the night as, if we went too quickly there was a risk of arriving at the north end of Lanzarote while it was still dark, but as it was we timed our dawn arrival to perfection and even found a catamaran stooging around that had apparently arrived too soon and followed it in. There was a shift in the wind to the east with the dawn and this caused some of the famous Canaries "acceleration" off the very impressive cliffs at this end of Lanzarote, closely followed by a total calm as we passed down the Estrecho del Rio, so there was about 10 minutes' more motoring to get into Caleta del Sebo than there would otherwise have been.

Since arriving, while not ignoring the attractions of the place, especially some of the beaches, I have been steadily doing little jobs, e.g: stopping a leak from one of the water bag connectors, sewing up the genoa leech, re-instating the sail on the roller forestay, better screws to hold on one of the new "spy" windows, improving the galley joinery and making stops to keep my seat-back cushion in place when we're close-hauled. Oban readers may remember Peter Gooch, who used to teach at Oban High and also did sailing alonga Ian Beith, he's here too in a big red steel ketch called Rionnag from Skye. Externally his boat looks fine, but the internal fitting out will be going on for a long time yet - he's booked himself in here for the next 9 months!

It's just 5 years almost to the day since I was here last aboard Spring Run and I wrote it up in that log at the time. Since then Caleta has doubled in size again (but lost the bank at least temporarily) but does now boast a proper Internet café. The Land-Rover population has doubled. The rest of the island seems totally unchanged and still very attractive. The mooring dues, due to the lack of laid-on amenities like electricity and water, must be the cheapest around (it's less than €4 per day for us) and, if I didn't have other things in mind, the temptation to stay long-term like Peter is immense. However, I must make a move fairly soon........

La Graciosa - Puerto Calero 24th February 2007 - Data
Today we made the break and, in only lightly-clouded weather and a Force 4 northeaster (trade wind) set off from Caleta del Sebo just shortly after 10. We had to make three tacks to windward to get out of the Estrecho, then eased the sheets to a beam reach that eventually became a run as we passed down the curve of the coast. Having received a text shortly before departure, I thought to answer it as we passed along the Malpais de la Corona (for those that know the island), and boast of the excellent conditions, but there was too much of the eyes down and not enough on the scenery as I did so, with the result that exactly an hour after easing sheets there I was being seasick AGAIN! Too long in port, obviously. However, I busied myself with things on deck and there was no recurrence. As the wind drew round to dead astern, we ran wing-and-wing, then gybed and it became obvious that the main wasn't really helping all that much, so I furled it and we still continued at a good six knots. Further down we came to the Costa Teguise, which seemed very much alive with numerous wind-surfers blasting back and forth. There being no option, I just had to sail through their midst and hope that there were no collisions. To keep my end of the sport up, I sat on the pushpit (handy for the Hydrovane) and waved food and drink at any that came close enough. Then we dodged round the Arrecifé reefs, where I note that the Gran Hotel (Lanzarote's one and only skyscraper) is now a creation of blue and white vertical stripes and not readily recognised for the cream with jutting, dark brown, balcony blocks that preceded it. After the airport and Puerto del Carmen it was coming for 5 o'clock, and from previous experience I know that it would be well after dark before we got round Punta Papagayo to go to Marina Rubicon, so we just came in here for old time's sake as much as anything. There is now some number of super-yacht berths just inside the entrance and keelboat and dinghy parking compounds above it, but the technical attractions now include WiFi (for free, or at least nothing extra) on all the pontoons, and likewise mains electricity. A great change from my last few nights, but then you have to pay for it - more than 4 times as much! Correspondingly, I expect we'll be gone tomorrow - how about lunch at anchor off Papagayo beach?

Puerto Calero - Marina Rubicon 25th February 2007 - Data
That was a good idea - and, if I may say so, carried out to perfection. We left Puerto Calero at noon, with a brisk northerly to take us, ran with genoa only again (getting very decadent) to round the rock off Punta Papagayo at half past one, sheeted in and were parked off my favourite beach well before 1400. The sun shone nicely and the chance was taken to improve my tan but, sadly, there was no point in blowing up the dinghy and going ashore because there was a big swell working its way in from the west and crashing thunderously on rocks and sand every 15 seconds or so. Not many people were risking going in the water at all - and there were in fact remarkably few for a Sunday anyway; truly it is the off season! Up anchor at 1630 (that is where this boat gets to be hard work) and arrived in this new marina at 1735. The reception pontoon is right underneath a well-frequented eatery, so if you're going to make a botch of berthing this isn't the place to do it - I thought I carried off the manoeuvre with the offshore breeze with reasonable success, due to using my usual standby - a short, midships line from the toe-rail. We get WiFi here too, but not for free; so far I have only checked that there is a signal to latch onto. This evening the walk to my usual dining place was longer than usual - half an hour's brisk march each way - but I got a good reception and a good bellyfull of roast lamb with mint sauce! A day off from the boat is in prospect for tomorrow then I think it will be Fuerteventura next: that may mean a lapse in updates if, as I suspect, internet access is far between. We seem to have a persistent High to the west of us for some time to come, so I might as well go south and west while it's still easy, then hope for a change to bring me back again next month.

Marina Rubicon - Corralejo 27th February 2007 - Data
Now we change to another island, and this is as far south as I got in Spring Run last time. It's not a great leap, between two ferry ports and almost exactly the same distance as from Oban to Craignure, In this case it is across the Estrecho de la Bocayna which, unusually for the Canaries, is only 20 to 30 metres deep (rather less than Oban Bay). That means that it pulls in the swells from both sides, if any are running at all, and today, although the wind was dead aft, we had a nasty lop coming at us from both quarters. We left at 1600, trying to get the best from the WiFi that we'd paid for and doing maintenance to various bits of boat and mainsail, and proceeded to rock and roll, pitch and yaw, leap and crash our way across for 2 hours to Corralejo, where we've anchored. The place is still surrounded by picturesque foaming breakers everywhere you look and suffering still too from tower cranes hard at work everywhere else. I'm sure it'll be lovely when they stop. I've made a shopping trip to the Hiper Dino ashore and will now be coasting down the SE side of Fuerteventura for the next two-three days.

Corralejo - Puerto del Castillo 28th February 2007 - Data
This place is also known as Caleta del Fuste and is as far south as I've ever been by any means before. From now on it's all new! We got here almost entirely by sail, only using the Yanmar for the last quarter of a mile in, and to select and get into our berth. By then it was dark, as we didn't get away from Corralejo until 1500 and it is about 25 miles as the sea goes. We had much the same wind, all plain sail and the seas from just the one quarter, which made life easier. Not a lot happened - no cetaceans seen, three yachts beating the other way, and one coaster heading into the island's capital, Puerto del Rosario, from the south - a quick "lights on and the Sea-Me" for that one, as it was just getting dusk. Everything was shut by the time we were installed - so no night life to report on!

Puerto del Castillo - Gran Tarajal 1st March 2007 - Data
Another very similar little coastal hop once I'd got away; the main story is how that was achieved, or nearly not..... The pontoon I was on was the one close up to the main breakwater. To get off it, one walks along to the shore end, up a ramp beside the pirate ship and tame sea-lions and, rather unusually, through a door into the end of the office portacabin and thence out the office main door to the outside world. That's the easy way - going in the opposite direction one needs (and had been given) a security card to operate the locks on both the doors from the landward side. In the morning, when I went ashore, there was no-one in the office. Later on, when I was back in the cockpit, the Capitán del Puerto hailed me from a bike on the breakwater and, speaking fair English, said to wait for him - he would come to me with the paperwork. So I waited and titivated the boat, polished windows, etc. Eventually he came with the usual form, having meantime been acting as Capitán of the Yellow Submarine, and I was left the form to fill, while he did another trip in his Yellow Submarine.
Then he returned for the form which I had not yet done and, since I was intending to leave soon and he had yet another trip in the YS, we agreed that I would push the form and security card under the inner office door before going. I filled in the form, went to the portacabin, stuck the form under the office door, made a brief shopping expedition ashore, returned to the portacabin, opened the door onto the pontoon, skidded the card under the office door beside the form, and the wind blew the exit shut before I had gathered up the shopping! Now I could only get out by going "ashore" and at the risk of getting locked out by two doors instead of just the one, so I opted to fish for the card, which I couldn't see. The gap under the door was too narrow to be able to get my comb through, and I was reduced to inspecting the lobby cupboard and noticeboard to see what might do the trick. There were basically only bits of paper and much groping with an A3 laminated notice was totally unsuccessful. After more than half an hour, fortunately, another berth-holder appeared to go for a fishing trip, so finally we were released from Puerto del Castillo!

Gran Tarajal - Morro Jablé 2nd March 2007 - Data
There doesn't seem to be a lot to GT - the harbour, from which they used to run ferries, is at the west end and there's a sandy beach in front of the rest of it. Above that it has tones of San Francisco: there are streets laid out on a grid system on quite a steep hillside and going up or down the only level bits are the actual widths of the streets on the contour. No tramcars, unfortunately, but car springs could still have a very hard time of it! At least the developers seem to have given the place the pass-by, so it is genuine Fuerteventura. I went for a short walkabout with camera and purely by chance found a decent chandlery - rare sight in the Canaries, so I went in and bought some blocks and rope so I can get myself to the masthead. They didn't have a long enough bit of rope of the right diameter, so I had to await its arrival in the afternoon. That delayed our departure until 4 p.m. At least there was power laid-on alongside the wall, so I was able to charge up the computer and get things right up-to-date on it in the meantime. For our sail we had endless sunshine and the breeze continuing from the northeast, but I made the initial mistake of keeping too close to the shore and hills and lost it awhile. Heading out cured that but, it being rather hazy, meant I couldn't see so much detail. The general scene had a lot in common with the West Highlands, if you can imagine them with almost no vegetation - pockets of habitation, mostly painted white, with large expanses of hills in between.

The rocks were often almost the same colour as heather. Anyway, the hills tapered off to a low-lying bit - actually the isthmus between the main island and the Jandia peninsula - and although we were well out and in over 1000 metres of water, the wind tapered off too. Annoyingly, I could see a long line of wind turbines ashore generating away like mad but it was a while before their wind, from the north, got out to us. Then off we went again for several miles and we were well in sight of the lighthouse at Morro Jablé when that wind gave up too, to be replaced by - nothing. It was now well after sunset and getting quite chilly (for these parts), so friend Yanmar was called to the rescue and we motored on past the lighthouse and then the next hill and finally came to the harbour, where we were able to go alongside a comfortable, if delapidated, pontoon. All secured at 2150.
I'm sorry to have to report that, if you have read tales of the timeless and endless unoccupied beaches (with sand blown in specially from the Sahara) in this part of the island, it ain't true no more. The developers have been at least as busy here as anywhere else and there are long ranks of hotels, up to 10 storeys high, and apartment blocks going on for miles. Sunloungers by the hundred are available for rental on the beach..... Somehow the harbour here is on the end of it, though they are beginning to make ominous excavations in the hill face behind, so one can go one way to 'town' or the other way to a 'wild' beach. We also get the interesting spectacle of the daily ferry (that used to run from Gran Tarajal) from Gran Canaria coming in and going out from the harbour - it looks like there's got to be a wizard prang as it does a three point turn close to the corner of the inner breakwater before backing in. Going into town is quite a trek, as they haven't made any provision for pedestrian access to and from the harbour around the shore but at least, by the same token, it keeps the yobs away! Reckon I'll stay here for a day or two, as it is well-sheltered, relatively private and apparently free of charge!

Morro Jablé - Las Palmas, Gran Canaria 6/7th March 2007 - Data
Well, I was wrong on that last point, but the charges are on a level comparable with La Graciosa - here it came to €14.08 for the four nights after much prodding and perplexity with a calculator. I spent too much time on the beach here, I think, including the last day up to 1700 or so, with the result that I was slightly out of sorts, and sore in places, when we came to sail in the evening. It is apparently 57 (sea) miles between these two places, and the idea of sailing in the evening was to ensure daylight for the arrival rather than the evening gloaming (or worse) that I've been accustomed to. As always, however, the weather had other ideas and instead of the night-time easing back in the harbour, when I got out a little I found a good Northerly Force 5 and very gusty in the lee of the south Fuerteventurian hills (the highest on the island - up to 806m). I initially set a reefed main and adjusted sail area with the genoa roller, but it soon became obvious that we would be arriving wet and long before dawn like that - according to the GPS we were doing at least 6 knots on this beam reach - so the main was by degrees completely stowed and the genoa reduced to a handkerchief and we trogged along for an ETA in the harbour entrance of 0800. It was boring and not at all comfortable, but it got us here. The sunset showed the top of the hills of Gran Canaria, and then kind of stayed as an afterglow, which turned out to be the loom of the lights in this place, the largest port in the Canaries. The moon - just after full - was mostly obscured by generous amounts of cloud and this is the first time I have needed the full set of "oilies" (and the hood up too) since the long leg from Portugal. Some dozen or so dolphins did the decent thing and escorted us for two out of the last three miles, they seemed a very small species or perhaps they were youngsters? Haven't investigated Las Palmas yet, just caught up on the sleep deficit, so that might be the subject of a later report, when I've found out how to get connected to the internet here.

That last bit was easy - there's the Match Racing Bar right alongside the marina where they let you play with their internet computer, WiFi (a bit doubtful), or ethernet LAN cable (which works well) for free while you are drinking their beer - so no problem at all...... hic! Have decided there's little point for the moment in leaving LP until I have to beat back to Lanzarote: firstly it's at the upwind end of the island, and it will only make matters worse if we go further south; secondly, being the capital, it has good connections with the rest of the island and some reconnoitring from the landward side is feasible to see where I might wish to sail in a future winter; and thirdly, the mooring fees are in the economy bracket because, as the reception clerkess was quick to point out, the marina is not privately owned but belongs to the Council! From what I can gather, most of the other marinas on the island come into the private category, and they're on the opposite side, quite a long way even in good conditions.

At Las Palmas, Gran Canaria 8/22nd March 2007
I have been very lax and not done very much at all. The weather has been generally good but it has managed to rain now and again. I was welcomed into my berth by Mike and Anne (Steel Dreamin') from Northumberland, who have been frequent visitors or resident in Las Palmas for some 8 years, and are consequently a great source of information. Also, talking of small worlds, recently in sailed Nick & Kathy (Fairwinds, Albin Vega) from Balvicar. Nick does the Bluemoment.com website...


Las Palmas is a very pleasant city, if one overlooks the eight-lane urban motorway that runs right along the waterside and the docks on the seaward side, where they load containers 168 hours per week onto an everchanging selection of ships. The marina is well sheltered but it's a long walk round to the new Reception office in all this heat! Fortunately the Bar is only a third of that distance. The town, too, is remarkably strung out from the old part (Triana) with the Cathedral and other ancient buildings in the south to the "New Town" area, where all the big stores are, on the isthmus of La Isleta to the north, a distance of about 2½ miles. Wheels would be a definite help. There's steep hills at the back in the south and a variety of skyscrapers and gardens. On the other side of the isthmus is the beach of Las Canteras, which is heavily used daily and remarkable for the Barra reef which runs parallel to it about a cable offshore. It is just nicely covered at high tide and of course takes all the swell off.

I took the direct bus to Maspalomas Lighthouse on Friday 9th and "did" the dunes in near gale conditions. It was strange to find that the sand was comfortable to walk on in bare feet in the open but, once in shelter from the colonising bushes further inland, it got too hot from not being drifted about. The following Wednesday I set off aboard the same bus, with the intention of getting further round the island, but found on arrival at the "Faro" terminus that the connection was not good and the return likely to be even worse. So I went back to the dunes and had my camera pinched by a sneak thief while I was dumping some rubbish, to cut a long and rather boring story to the basics. I have reported the theft to the Policia Nacional here in Las Palmas but doubt very much if they will do anything about it... except add it to the statistics to show how necessary the Police are! So I have today (20th) bought another, similar camera - a cruise without picture back-up is not to be contemplated - and at least it was not quite as painful financially as it would have been at home, being much the same price in € as its predecessor had been in £. So normal service is resumed, and I'm trying to get caught up with inserting pictures where available into the text above - some are already in and I hope you noticed!
Next voyage, probably starting in the next 3-4 days, will be back to Lanzarote to meet old friends Ulf and Björg from Norway.
Back to Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote 24/25th March 2007 - Data
This was a fine piece of opportunism and weather forecasting and it arrived at just the right time! I spotted that the wind should be backing to something west of north for two or three days, beginning on Friday night, so arranged clearance from Las Palmas on Saturday. There was a slight party aboard Steel Dreamin' on the Friday evening, at which yours truly consumed a fair quantity of Castillo de Liria (Rioja) followed by some Malvasia semi-dulce (Lanzarote), and consequently had a sore head to remember it by the following morning. Taking it gently and going when ready meant that we cast off at 1203. We motored up the harbour a bit to try to calibrate the log, which has been grossly under-reading throughout the voyage so far and which I had at last got the proper settings for during our sojourn here, then set sail - as it was blowing quite a brisk Force 4, I had put the working jib back on the roller, but managed to carry the full main with it. Our course was 062° for 95.2 nautical miles and I was pleased to find that we could sail well above that and at more than 5½ knots, because normally this is expected to be a beat against a Force 5 wind and the Canaries current, and so might well last for a good two days. Las Palmas soon began to fade into quite a strong haze and by 1700 Gran Canaria was no longer distinguishable. Probably because I had little to do except think about it, I had already been sea-sick by then, so this turned into a Cream Crackers and water crossing. There was quite a succession of ships about, but they all respected my Sea-Me responder, and only one was actually on a collision course when first spotted and he turned to starboard when something like 2 miles away. Sad to say there were no dolphins or whales to be seen this time. In due course it got dark, and the wind veered and eased somewhat, so it wasn't so easy to hold the course, which slowed us slightly. There were a fair number of clouds about to make star spotting just a bit difficult, but at least it didn't rain! By dawn we were slightly below our course but plugging not too badly up the west side of Fuerteventura and the sun rose actually over El Cotillo, the only bit of this coast that I can recognise. We then had to tack once each way to get round the shoals of Punta Toston (which run an unusually long way out with big breakers on them), and then we were able to ease off a bit, with Playa Blanca well in sight, and head for "home". We were actually dropping sail in the entrance to the marina at 1203, which made the total trip exactly 23 hours after allowing for the vernal overnight resetting of clocks. Getting into a berth took a while because there was a regatta going on inside the marina - of radio-controlled model yachts, each with a full suit of jib, staysail, main and topsail set, with a bowsprit and going like the proverbial clappers, so I didn't feel like mixing it! Notwithstanding this, I did get in eventually and am booked in for a fortnight, have regained my bike, etc.

Today (Tuesday, 27th March) I met up with Ulf and Björg and we went for a very short sail. Not only are they old friends in the sense of long-standing... and neither of them had ever been in any form of sailing boat before, but it was blowing briskly (and none too warmly) out of the north, so we contented ourselves with a reach under working jib only to anchor off our favourite beach at Papagayo, where we partook of the lunch they had brought and in due course retrieved the anchor and sailed back under working jib only without needing to tack, and so into the marina - grand total: about 4 miles. And what did they bring to wash down the luncheon? Castillo de Liria! I'm still delirious.....

April 9th 2007 - Easter Monday

I've been much enjoying a beach fortnight here but the time has come to move on and I did expect to leave for La Graciosa tomorrow w.p. The port side window pane that came with the boat developed the start of a crack across some time ago, which was worrying, and then overnight last Thursday/Friday two more splits appeared in different places, which is worse! Have decided to head back to Faro (Algarve) again for the replacement, having now got the contact there, and then see what transpires. Am taping the Perspex to minimise the drips. Meanwhile, here's a few pics taken today around Marina Rubicon..........

Have just spent a frustrating afternoon trying to get the rear brake cable for my mountain bike replaced after the nipple pulled out at the handlebar end. It looks like my move to Caleta del Sebo will have to be postponed by a further 24 hours. Pity, because the wind is forecast to be just right for the job tomorrow, Tuesday.

Marina Rubicon to Caleta del Sebo Wednesday, 11th April 2007 - Data
Got away at last, bike safely parked, at 1046. Set the genoa alone to take us down to Punta Papagayo then, coming more onto the wind, hoisted nearly the full main - it was blowing about Force 4 from the NW. We were able to carry this tack comfortably up past Arrecife and Costa Teguise but at the next headland, Cabo Ancona, the wind veered a bit to head us, as forecast, and despite best efforts we had to allow ourselves to be chiselled away from the coast bit by bit thereafter. Just stuck with the long port tack until we were nearer Roque del Este than the mainland, then put in a couple of short hitches to arrive at our turning point, Punta Fariones, whence it was an easy reach to Caleta. Took the main down first, then the genoa as we arrived at the breakwater-head and so had only a few minutes of engine work while I selected a berth and manoeuvred into it. While I was still trying to find something to attach the mid-ships rope to, the guardian appeared and demanded to know the name of the boat - I pointed out that it was written on either bow, she flashed her torch and wrote it down, then disappeared into the darkness - it was by then 2246, so the trip had taken exactly 12 hours.

17th April 2007
Since then I have found a fourth crack in the port perspex..... Little items are being maintained, like the cooker burners (they were beginning to make soot) and table top (revarnishing) and I have also acquired a larger solar panel as a souvenir of the place. Details of this lengthy process are withheld pro tempore! On Friday 13th, to celebrate Mother's centenary, I climbed one of the more remarkable volcanoes on the island, Montaña Mojón, and took some pics there as well as elsewhere. A selection will be appended, when I've the time and electricity to process them.

18th April 2007
Window crack score now up to five! Latest appeared while I was away in the Internet "café" - I'm almost afraid to go there again to send this. Was hoping to sail for Faro tomorrow, but the forecast has changed back to northerlies.



Caleta del Sebo to Porto Santo 11-15th May 2007 - Data
Nick & Kathy had left for Madeira on Tuesday, 8th and I had been all psyched up and stored up to leave for Faro that day too. However, the weather did something totally unpredicted a few minutes before departure time - it switched from easterly, sunny, warm and dusty, to N or NE, cloudy, cool and Force 5 again! Since my course was 030°, this certainly didn't suit me although those aboard Fairwinds, heading NW, decided after further checks to live with it, and went anyway. For me, it was back to waiting again, and seeing much of the forecast spell of easterly wind dissipated. One thing I had learned on Tuesday, however, was that, when taking off the genoa (in harbour) in a hurry, do not cast off the halliard before unfurling the sail.... I did this without thinking and in a very few seconds had the most monstrous wrap at the top of the forestay, positively Jurassic! There was nothing for it but to use my new tackle to hoist myself up to the masthead where, fortunately, it proved possible to unwind it without needing to undo anything, while Nick stood by with a safety line just in case. The idea had been to set up the working jib again, but as it was that was delayed until the Friday. Meantime, it was found that the genoa was needing more stitching replaced, so the time wasn't entirely lost. And hearing the wind that night, rising to a howl instead of dropping, made me glad to still be tucked up safely in harbour (poor Fairwinds!).

By Friday I was coming around to the opinion that Caleta del Sebo is in its own particular wind Acceleration Zone, and perhaps there was some easily found Moderation once out of the Estrecho. So, despite far from ideal forecast conditions, I went anyway. As usual, it seemed to take most of the day to actually get under way, motor on and warps off at 1710. Without even getting out of the Estrecho, the wind went all coy and it took all night to get off the local chart at a point north of Alegranza. At least it was a gentle start to break me in after a month of landlocked decadence! Saturday wasn't much better from the point of view of progress - in the whole day we only managed to reduce the distance to go by a paltry 36 miles, despite sailing 71.7 through the water. On Sunday, we began to get the occasional splash on deck and actually saw two ships - the SeaMe had been indicating copious radar action ever since we cleared the land, without anything appearing within visual range; perhaps the radars on the Peñas del Chache, the highest point of Lanzarote, were responsible, but now even they would be getting out of range. The second ship appeared just as I was thinking of changing tack to starboard, so I postponed it a little, then tacked to pass close astern. However, he obviously was watching very warily, because he promptly altered course to port, thus passing astern of me. I apologised per VHF for thus putting him about, but didn't get my closer look! The wind was now beginning to steady itself up and propel us properly but we were still able to gather up some solar power in the afternoon. By 2200 a precautionary reef of the main seemed a good idea and at midnight we had knocked exactly 100 miles off the total distance-to-go of 541 miles - in nearly 2½ days. The ride now began to get really bumpy (we were over the eastern end of the Dacia Seamount, where soundings change from more that 3000m to 128 in a matter of yards) and great trouble was experienced in getting some of the contents of a large pan of oxtail soup (Rabo de Buey) transferred to their proper resting place. Further rolls went into the main, leaving the jib still full, as that rig seems to work particularly well, going both higher and faster, then I made no apologies for quitting the cockpit and taking off the oilies for a while. In all the bouncing, I managed to switch off the instruments at 0547 with the back of my head, which caused some more interesting navigational measurements to discover how many miles had been lost from the trip mileometer. By noon on Monday, the miles to go had reduced to 421.

Now, the boat was standing up to the demands of the voyage well (still only 6 cracks in the port window and no significant leaks) but at this rate of progress we were going to run out of batteries for the GPS's and probably food too long before the Portuguese coast appeared, so I thought about it over lunch. Madeira was now off our lee bow, with the entrance to Porto Santo harbour "only" 145 miles, say, a day and a half, so Plan B (or is it Diversion 1?) was put into operation at 1300, when sheets were freed and course eased back to 298°. Speed instantly rose by nearly 3 knots! At 1400, while closing the hatch from inside, I nearly broke some ribs, falling against the galley grab pillar (I'm still sore now) but we were having a real Ride-the-Tiger reach! After 5 hours we had already covered 32.3 miles (nautical ones, mind); it was perishing on deck and I hid inside again. The Yanmar was used to charge the batteries but, thanks to maintenance done in Marina Rubicon, without engaging gear - it might have slowed us down! By midnight we had nearly halved the distance to our new destination and, again, I spent most of the time cowering inside. Old hands will understand when I say it was blowing Force 6 from exactly on the beam, but this night had some extra tricks. One was to catch the side of the hull with a falling wave, still of solid water, with a crafty bang, so that from inside it sounded and felt very much as though we had just hit something solid. A particular one at 0522 sounded so realistic that I shot into the cockpit as I was, expecting to see a pallet-load of something semi-submersible spinning away astern. Not a trace (and no leaks nor any mark on the boat now that I can make a good inspection) and a good towelling down was the predictable result! Sufficient to say that at 1300, we were taking off sail in the lee of the lighthouse island just outside PS harbour having edged our way some extra miles to windward of the direct route, as all sagacious racing helmsmen tend to do on a reach, and at quarter past we were secured on a pontoon. There I was caught and welcomed by Heinz from the good ship Dschinifor and, as if that wasn't enough, offered a mug of soup and a cheese roll. Wow!
I haven't had a good look yet to see what changes have been wrought on the island, but I have discovered that free WiFi is available under the palm trees in the town square and the new arts theatre/cinema nearby, so I must haste thither and upload this.
Weatherwise, winds continue to blow from the wrong direction until about next Tuesday, 22nd, so I have booked in for the week.
Porto Santo to Faro 23-28th May 2007 - Data
Tuesday, 22nd came and did not look at all nice - definitely more like Argyll than Madeira. A Dutch couple in an Elan 333 set off in the morning to go to Lisbon, and re-appeared about 1600 :- they could not get the boat to sail in the discombobulated breezes and had never been able to stop the engine, also they were very wet! I spent the day dodging the rainy spells whilst taking the computer into Vila Baleeira to get the latest weather gen and some eMails away.

Wednesday was a different day altogether - clear enough to see both Madeira and the Ilhas Desertas - sunny and warm, so we had to go. The winds weren't too bad, although still from the wrong direction initially, they were forecast to come round more to the northwest and even west later in the week. So we paid our dues, retrieved our documentation and pushed off at 1600 precisely, setting full sail (the genoa this time on the furler instead of the working jib) inside the harbour. Then it was onto the wind for as long as it took.... Here are a couple of shots taken on the way out.
Once round the end of the island(s), we stuck to starboard tack to get northing - towards the anticipated windshift - and kept going thus all night (Porto Santo disappeared about 2320) without having to adjust anything except my position in the cockpit.

By 0800 the wind was swithering a bit and at 1040 I called for 2 hours of battery charging, in gear. Within a few seconds, dolphins started appearing from all directions and I thought I was going to get a record escort and popped below to make a log entry and get the camera. Lo and behold, the sensitive creatures took umbrage at having their audience "walk out" and disappeared even faster than they had arrived! Clearly, one must show proper respect in such circumstances. Towards the end of the charging period, I spotted some piece of ochreous debris floating in the water ahead, and we went right over it, courtesy of the Europilot. I couldn't make out what it was at all - about a foot long, sort of triangular lumps, on or very close to the surface, rather like some mis-shapen piece of spray-on plastic foam. When the propeller hit it, it went "Crunch" and several little pieces were left bobbing in our wake.

The rest of the day was pleasant enough, but I have to admit that I wasn't enjoying it all that much - my ribs have yet to recover from their earlier crack and my arms were getting plenty of exercise just hanging on, as a variety of mixed-up swells tossed us about, and my appetite had gone walkabout too. We were now reaching on port and having to bear away progressively as the wind continued to back, but at least we were now able to sail the direct course. Later on it rained, so a strategic move inside was made and the genoa furled in the interests of a quieter night. By 0545 on Friday morning the wind had come round so far (further than forecast) that a gybe was necessary and it was still raining... To sail, as we were, in the opposite direction to the prevailing (trade) winds, one has to find some abnormal weather to help, and I guess that was exactly what we were doing. At least it was not severely abnormal. By 10 a.m. the sun was trying to come out, so I unrolled some genoa and reefed the main a bit to give a better balance. While I was doing this, I spotted another piece of ochreous debris ahead, just like the first but a few feet off to port, so I took a better look at it - it was a small turtle! Two minutes later, there was another, in a slightly different colour scheme, more like the conventional tortoise..... The purpose in telling this sad tale, you may think unnecessarily, is to help save future turtles from the same fate as my first - caused purely by ignorance. So if you, dear reader, are at the helm while plugging along under engine on blue waters and have a similar encounter, you'll know to make a slight swerve - won't you? Incidentally, that's another good reason for forebearing with the engine - under sail, turtles just go Bump! on the waterline for'ard, as I now realise I have heard several times.

Notwithstanding this tragic revelation, I was beginning to feel better now, albeit somewhat battered and bruised, and when I accidentally broke the mounting block for the Europilot (again), I set to with long screws and glue at the ready and returned it to serviceable condition, then had a minor feast. The wind easing, I next had a shave (I think that's a first on passage!) and later we had another battery-charging session. Just as well, because Friday night proved quite tricky and I was fully engaged keeping the boat moving - in any direction. The plot on the GPS shows us on every course on the compass at some point. Although there was a waxing moon, it was mostly a murky and damp night and very difficult to see where the next puff was, let alone which way it was going. Windvanes are not a lot of help in these conditions. Shortly after midnight, while it was raining lightly, I observed to the north what looked like a lenticular lump of fog, sitting on the surface with its curved upper edge defined with a couple of grey lines. Like fog, I couldn't see through it but when I tacked towards it, it retreated before me. It came to me that this must be a "moonbow" but, if so and it works like a rainbow, why couldn't one see through the middle part of the arc? Some confirmation of my diagnosis was provided when the rain passed off and the moonbow disappeared from left to right. Somehow it reminded me of the Cheshire Cat - but upside down!

In due course, the wind returned, but this time from the north, so we were close reaching on port, and over some hours it built up to Force 5 and necessitated 9 rolls each in the main and the genoa. We scooted along under Hydrovane while I dodged the spray (and occasional bigger lumps of water) inside. Several ships passed, none close, proving that we were getting into the lanes leading to Gibraltar. There were some sunny periods, but the sunset was poor, and we did our 2 hours' battery charging without engaging gear, as we were doing 6 knots anyway. Similarly on Sunday, with a shift to the wind and picking our way through the shipping, except that the evening revealed that Portugal did indeed lie to the north where it should - it just didn't become apparent until the street lights came on. This time we were in no hurry to arrive because of tidal considerations, although the wind didn't know that, so we again charged batteries out of gear. We duly arrived at the entrance to Faro in a golden dawn and near low water, sailing into the lee of Cabo de Santa Maria and dropping the light hook at 0550, for a snooze under the duvet - a welcome change. Then at lunchtime, we motored in - in company with other yachts! - and picked up an unoccupied mooring at the pool near the town.

I'm glad to report that the cracks in the port window did not increase in number or length during this last leg of the voyage and I was able to get the replacement cut on Tuesday for not much more than the starboard one cost. Getting it fitted is a different matter, however, as I don't have enough bedding tape for the job and am still searching around the town for some. Obviously I don't want to risk taking the cracked one off unless I can either preserve the old tape (unlikely) or have its replacement to hand. On the good side, I have found a mooring to borrow for the month of June, so the boat can stay here in optimum conditions and handy for the airport while I go home and, if necessary, get the supplies there. I would prefer to have the new window installed before I go home, so that I can just stock up the boat and go when I return, so as yet I have not booked my flight - but by the time this is posted, that may well have changed. I guess here endeth the first part of the cruise!