Revised: 28 March 2012

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"Spearhead" News - Part III

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to Isla de Lobos - Wednesday, 23rd January 2008 - Data
After too many days with no wind to speak of, and a few with too much, I found a good day for this expedition to explore the natural harbour on the southmost tip of this island, which lies not far off the town of Corralejo at the north end of Fuerteventura (and may be known to some readers). There are some problems with this harbour - it is effectively uncharted, shallow (so a keelboat needs to be there at the top of the tide), and girt-about with rocks. I looked at it in 2002 from Spring Run, and subsequently by ferry (which lands foot passengers only elsewhere), so I had some idea of how to get in and out, but had no check on the depths of water available. Having Google Earth on my computer this time made things much easier - if you have it too, take a look at 28° 44' 12" N and 13° 49' 03" W - it is displayed in considerable detail, with all the patches of sand and rock, above and below the water. As may be imagined, I spent some time studying this view in advance. Wish we had similar cover at home!
The objects of this exercise were to see if it was practicable for a keelboat to get in at all, and then, having done so, to see if there was a pool of sufficient depth to lie in for a tide or two. The island is a nature reserve and the only human habitations are at El Puertito and the lighthouse at the north end of the island. Access is now restricted to the established tracks. There is one restaurant in the hamlet, apparently constructed mainly from driftwood, presumably for the benefit of tourists, who are brought by boats from Corralejo and Playa Blanca (Lanzarote). There is a lagoon about half a mile to the west of El Puertito where cruising catamarans and the occasional centreboarder have been known to beach themselves, but getting in and out is very much at the mercy of the swell, which usually rolls through the strait between Lobos and Fuerteventura from the northwest. However, the rocks around El Puertito break up this swell very efficiently, as I noticed in 2002, hence my interest in the place as an alternative hidey-hole. Needless to say, there are no resident yachts and the inhabitants if so inclined seem to go fishing from rowing boats.
So I set forth from Marina Rubicon at 1130, which was about 2½ hours before high tide, and headed across to the eastern side of Lobos, under all plain sail and Captain Vane (the Hydrovane self-steering) working well with a new rudder blade. The wind was a comfortable and steady Force 3 easterly and the sea really quite flat. The direction wasn't altogether good for my purpose as it meant it was blowing nearly straight into El Puertito, but one can't have everything and least the sun was out above some cirrus clouds. We clipped along at about 5 knots and were soon passing down the east side of Lobos. At the further corner a reef runs out, which I treated with respect, then we turned right. I had entered the position of the southmost rock into my handheld GPS from Google Earth and, wonder of wonders, it agreed with what I could see. The Admiralty chart shows this isolated rock with no indication of its height or depth: today, which had a predicted height (for Arrecife, but there's little difference in either height or timing along this coast) of 2.7 metres, the top of the rock was intermittently visible in troughs between the modest waves, which of course also broke on it, so it should always be detectable. Having furled all sail, we passed east of this rock and headed towards the houses courtesy of the Yanmar, soon picking up a line of rocks to starboard.
The depth beneath the keel was showing as 5-6 metres over sand. Then came the bold bit - with more rocks ahead, above and below the surface, we turned right, following a narrow strip of sand with the rocks only feet away on both sides. We bobbed up and down in the broken water and the echo-sounder took a fit of the vapours as it is prone to do at such moments and swore there was no depth under the keel at all. However, I had seen motor boats go through here at near low water, and there was in any case no chance of turning around and going back, the boat being longer than the gap was wide*, so we persisted and passed freely through. All we had to do was to follow the strip of sand (Yellow Brick Road?) round to the left, then left again, and we were in the pool. One little rock remained in the centre to greet us, which I passed on the south side. I didn't check the depth on it....
We took a cautious trip up the pool, and turned round just short of the jetty, without finding more than 1 metre under the keel anywhere, so my hoped-for pool to lie in was sadly absent. However it was just on high water, so there was plenty of time for lunch at least, and we headed back towards the little rock, dropped anchor just downwind of it and I got the food out into the cockpit.
Due to the restricted room and shallow depth, I had deliberately put the "lunch hook" on a short scope and, of course, it chose this moment to start to drag. So, on with engine again, up with the anchor to the bow, and this time I went even closer to the little rock and re-dropped the hook there, and this time it held. A few photos were taken but I thought it would be an act of faith too far to get out the dinghy and go ashore to picture Spearhead actually lying in these adventurous quarters.
So, an hour after high water, with the level down only a few centimetres, we reversed our route and went back out the way we had come in. At the narrow pass this time the sounder had regained its cool and indicated some 5 metres under the keel and the only problem was seeing where the sand was with the sun reflecting off the surface directly beyond the bows. Once safely beyond the outmost rock, sail was set again and we continued our clockwise circumnavigation of the island, keeping mostly quite close. The Playa Blanca boat, César Dos, was lying near the ferry jetty and I hoped I would get a view of her picking up passengers at 1600, but we were going too fast, and she came past us later on the way home. And so we arrived back at the marina and were all secured at 1750. The closest shave of the entire day came when we were turning into our berth, and a motor launch popped out from its own a little further along and scooted along towards us, not paying very close attention to where it was going - probably thinking more about stowing ropes, etc. Fortunately he made a last-second swerve and so saved the day for both of us.

* The boat's manoeuvrability is reduced when the windvane's rudder (which is almost as powerful as the boat's) is locked in a central position, as it has to be when there's a chance of going backwards or frequent large changes of direction would require its constant re-setting. This tends to make marina manoeuvres more interesting.

at Marina Rubicon 6th January to 1st March 2008
There has been some work done on the boat:- the name has been added in matching lettering to the (polished-up) transom; the teak timbers around the hatchway have been cleaned of old varnish and wood sealer (messy job this, inside and out) and varnished afresh with several coats; the local expert on colour-matching gel coats has made me a special pot of gel to match the deck moulding (but I have only just started to use it); the boat has been taken out of the water and lightly pressure cleaned below the waterline, anodes checked (all OK for once), and antifouling has been touched up and propeller cleaned. The bottom rudder bearing proved to be so worn it had broken, apparently some considerable time ago, so was replaced with a new stainless pintle. The rudder head also has been very "free" ever since acquisition so the hinge mechanism has been re-engineered to reduce the slack. The fluorescent orange sheeting on the masthead has been renewed and now sticks out like a sore thumb. The bent bottlescrew on the port lifelines has been very carefully straightened. The control lines for the mainsheet traveller have been craftily re-organised. Various minor electrical modifications have been made to allow the GPS (handheld) plotter to be used in the cockpit on "boat" power. The hatch top cover, which has been cracking at the aft ends since acquisition, has been taken off and strengthened with additional glassfibre, so that the cracks can be repaired with the gel coat when it has all hardened up. I found a useful-looking length of W African mahogany abandoned at our recycling point, and have recycled it into a chain bucket restrainer or nest that sits on the cockpit floor and will, I hope, keep the bucket from sliding (heavily) around when conditions are "rocky". So as they say, there's not a lot new there then - but it either keeps us up to par or makes a slight improvement in the general handling of the boat.

Playa Blanca to Arrecife 1st March 2008 - Data
The wind seems to have settled, after quite a long spell of doing everything else (and making Lanzarote the greenest I have seen with lots of rain showers and even rainy days), into its "normal" trade-wind pattern, with north-easterlies of Force 4 to 5 and those nice little cumulus clouds that keep zipping past. So when the forecast for Saturday was for the lower end of Force 4, I decided to seize the moment to leave Marina Rubicon and Playa Blanca for another season. There was a slight complication in that cousin Ruth and her husband Philip Beattie had just arrived in PB for a fortnight's holiday, so I wanted to give them a sail too. So an invitation was issued the previous day to come with me to Arrecife and there catch the bus back - a slightly adventurous start to a holiday, you may think. Anyway, they duly arrived all set up for the adventure, and we cast off at 1130, motored out of the marina and set some reefed sails. After a little while Philip went below to get their windcheaters and then stayed down to put his on - not so simple as he had to take off his safety harness first, then replace it after. Understandably, when he reappeared on deck he was a bit subdued and thereafter did not seem to be enjoying himself as he ought. When we enquired, he admitted this and so we turned back before any worse arose and put them off at the reception pontoon. A pity, but definitely for the best in the circumstances. Spearhead and I resumed in our normal singlehanded mode at 1315 and, the wind having eased, put up slightly more sail. We did long tacks - the first one to 5 miles from the marina, then north to the entrance to the harbour at Puerto del Carmen. To keep Philip's indisposition in perspective, I must record that I actually was sick, just as the last of PB was disappearing behind Punta del Papagayo, but thereafter was OK. Our next hitch out was lifted well up the coast and I tacked back in towards the Gran Hotel de Arrecife from some 5 miles away. A quick zig-zag and I was in the harbour at 1910 with the anchor down under sail, sharing the entire place with 3 other boats (one a previous near-neighbour on the pontoon at Marina Rubicon). This was a good sail to remind me of some of the realities of sailing against the Trades even in almost ideal conditions. And the bucket's nest worked a treat.

Arrecife to Caleta del Sebo (Isla de La Graciosa) Wednesday 12th March 2008 - Data
The Trades resumed blowing at normal strength when we were ready to resume our way north, and kept doing it! Four boats swung to their anchors in the Puerto de Arrecife (2 catamarans and 2 monohulls) and at least no-one had any anchor troubles, despite the place's reputation. Spearhead and Portu Txiki tried the effect of joining ourselves together with headrope and springs, so that we became a moored catamaran ourselves, and this proved surprisingly comfortable as well as convenient for swapping bread and borrowing tools! At last the local morning forecast spoke of winds of only Force 4, with 3 in north Lanzarote, so the chance was seized upon and we set off at 0944 with the customary reef in the main, putting on oily trousers (just in case) and reefed genoa too as we got out of the harbour. Shortish tacks were taken up the coast past the Costa Teguise, and once past Cabo Ancones the wind reduced and it started to warm up, so up went full sail in stages and strip-tease of the skipper began. We took a turn into Arrieta and Punta de Mujeres to compare the two villages as possible anchorages, but the chop was still getting into them and a lot of empty moorings made manoeuvring a matter for precision, so we did not try to stop. Two more tacks and we could lay the course past Orzola, as the coast fell away, and see that there is now a big yellow crane there apparently building a new breakwater out from the landward end. And so with a final run we arrived at Caleta del Sebo, which is almost getting to be like coming home, and we were all tied up, with help from the guardian this time, at 1823, with minimal use of friend Yanmar. The place seems to be relatively full, probably due to the Easter holiday season coming up.

Caleta del Sebo to Barbate Saturday to Friday, 5th-11th April 2008 - Data
This leg actually started on the previous Thursday, when two other boats left for the north and we set off after them in the evening. However, when I came to set the genoa at the top end of El Rio and get sailing in earnest, lo and behold - it wouldn't unfurl. Since there was no option but to make a visit to the masthead, I just had to cut my losses and return to Caleta, fix it the following day (it proved to be nothing worse than the ball-bearing races in the top swivel being thoroughly jammed up with calima, the dust blown in from Africa), and resume on the second morning thereafter instead.
Saturday - Day 1
If anything, the weather then was even better, with improved visibility and cloudless skies away from land, and the wind WSW 2 to 3. I cast off at 1245 and we ran up El Rio under all plain sail and turned onto a northerly course once the way was clear to do so. By the time we were clear of all land effects, the wind had gone NW and there was a moderate swell, so we were actually making about 030° and 5 to 5½ knots. It was so warm that when I moved away from my nook in the lee corner of the cockpit there was a little river of perspiration running down the sidewall and into the locker-lid drain system! There hasn't been much of that sort of temperature just recently. At sunset at 2013 BST I struck all national and local flags for the rest of the leg in international waters and only Alegranza was still distinguishable. The loom of the lights of Lanzarote remained visible long after everything else was lost, and if I didn't find that astern, then we must be off course!
Sunday - Day 2
Shortly after midnight I took down the mainsail - it was only rattling about and spoiling the airflow into the genoa, which is the bigger sail anyway. As it turned out, it wasn't needed again until closing land on the last day! Stick the pole in the genoa's clew about 4 hours later - should have thought of that sooner, as it stops all the noises off and we go a good knot faster with the sail held out to the wind better. One distant ship seen in the night. At sunrise we gybe to starboard. The log seems to be seriously under-reading at lower speeds, as just now, but comes right once we are doing about 4 knots. Make a panful of porridge to last a few days and enjoy the first bowlful. Since it seems to be a quiet morning, take the chance to swill down the decks and get rid of much of the calima, then polish the windows. Put out the big solar panel to help with recharging the battery and by 1030 the level was already up by 2½ volts. At noon it was becoming apparent that the main swell was coming in from the west, notwithstanding that we had now had several days of southerlies. Keeping up the good works, get out some wet or dry and rub down the sharp-sawn corners in the cockpit cubby-holes to make them more comfortable to hang on to, then do the edges of the stiffening board for the bo'sun's chair. Wind rises steadily during the afternoon, so I took in the Big Panel early before things got wet. Altogether not in a great hurry to rush north where there had been forecast to be a gale awaiting us, so content ourselves with the speed we're doing. At 1800 the log showed we had done 77.7 miles with 486 to go. Tea, rest, shave, change to serious gear just in case. At 8 pm a debate over the state of charge of the battery (following on from the BP's earlier effort) and decide to leave pro tem. Can't see the sun set, due to cloud. Later some lightning flashes and a steamer spotted to the northwest. Start furling the genoa as wind rises and take out the pole reluctantly when the sail becomes too small to use it. Still dry! 2305 - a big dolphin (or other cetacean) spotted weaving patterns in the phosphorescence alongside but it doesn't stay long. At midnight it is blowing South 5 and we have 470 miles to go as we clock up 103.5 for the trip so far.
Monday - Day 3
0235 and it comes on to rain. Pop below to go to the heads but am hardly inside before a squall lays us over to starboard; the Hydrovane soon restores order, so do as intended, then go up on deck again to see what a noise heard forward was. Find we are now off-course, so gybe the "jib" (little bit of genoa, actually) and go aft to adjust the vane. Both lazarette covers are off and the starboard one is missing altogether. Both are normally tensioned in place with shockcord and have individual safety lines as well made fast round the rudder post. No trace of the starboard one's line, so it must have come untied. No chance of getting back to where we were when this presumably happened and I doubt that it would float in any case. Return port lid to its duty and consider what might be done to block the hole remaining to starboard. Observe things awhile and relieved to note that water hardly ever gets near the hole and, indeed, very little seems to have got in during the incident that removed it. Thoughts of part-inflating the dinghy (or its seat, if big enough) in the gap are put on hold. Still, it's not a nice situation: work out that we are, in round figures, about 150 miles from Essaouira, the nearest Moroccan port for which I have any information, or 200 miles from Porto Santo. Both would be stiff sails in these conditions. Meanwhile, the service battery would like some more charge, please - it's down to 8.35V, so run the engine out of gear for a couple of hours, and decide we might just as well continue without diverting. Later in the morning I note that cold and a spell of rain do nothing to improve my enthusiasm! However by noon, a brightening sky was improving things - we were now running on port before SW5 with 422 miles to go. It got very choppy in the afternoon, but at least it was under an almost cloudless sky, and I took advantage of the dry deck to put the flat fender/cockpit seat over the hole and stick it in place with numerous lengths of black cloth tape. Although it didn't cover the hole completely, it should drastically reduce the amount of water coming in should a big 'un fall on it and, fortunately, the lazarette doesn't have any limber holes leading to the main bilge and can be pumped out separately with its own little pump. The wind was now easing a bit, but came again with a slight backing towards midnight (374 miles to go).
Tuesday - Day 4
Having reefed the genoa further, I retired below at 0130 - no traffic about and no radars detected by the Sea-Me. No point in getting wet and perished unnecessarily! It got steadily rougher until morning. I adjusted our course at 0820 and then sat out to admire the spectacle for about 2 hours. Occasional bangs and clunks from the Hydrovane made me suspicious that it was moving on its mountings; when I lined everything up from inside, I could see that it was. Another complication.... The last time I had tightened it up was, I think, at Rota, where I had used the one ring spanner of the right size outside and held the nut inside with a Mole-type wrench. Those were still the only "suitable" tools and if now they were proving to have been inadequate, what could I do to improve things? Also, I didn't wish to move the taped-on lazarette cover, so it all would have to be done through the remaining proper lid. So I made a start at 0950, climbing in and half-out of the lazarette as necessary. After some bright ideas and more repetitions of failure, I could do nothing to fix it and gave up in disgust 8 hours later. A very frustrating day, leaving me well scraped, banged and battered, but very impressed with some of the unsought views I had had of the large holes in the sea that appeared as the stern flicked over the top of a big roller - it was all of Force 7 for a good part of this episode! Retire below, wet and starving, but have to return unfed to furl up the genoa completely as it was treating me like dice in a shaker. Leave the vane to do the best it can running us straight downwind; that seemed the lightest loading that I could put upon it and still keep control of a sort. NOT A GOOD DAY and cold too! At midnight we were nearly off the "Casablanca to the Canaries" chart, so at least we were making progress - now 268 miles to go.
Wednesday - Day 5
The next and possibly best place in Morocco, Mohammedia, was now not all that far away, but ideas of perhaps pulling in there had to be given up when it was worked out that we would have to arrive in the dark. So we continued with crossed fingers and the vane not at all improved by its extra degree of freedom, but at least still operational. Dawn breaks, grey, cold and lightly raining to add to the salty dollops. All hatch boards in and still the rain splashes come through inside. Mercifully no shipping about last night or indeed all day - perhaps the weather is keeping them in port? Decide that it's too risky to boil up fresh porridge today, but it's not all bad - wind veers SSW and only Force 5 with the waves coming more on the beam. A steady improvement leads to thin sunshine and a general inspection while battery charging (in gear, since we have no sail up anyway). For the first time ever, the engine seems reluctant to start, but does so, so is given an extra hour to get everything up to par. Find the Hydrovane's aluminium tube inside the vane itself has broken at the bottom of the leading edge, so the vane is twisting a little from side to side as the wind moves and it will ultimately fail altogether. Consider trying to beef it up while it's working but don't have the necessary bit of wood and anyway I do have a spare (thanks again, Brian) although the nylon sleeve will have to be transferred when the time comes. Meanwhile leave it to see how long it lasts, but put an extra tether on it to ensure that the sleeve isn't lost.
At 1422 decide to try a little sail again, and unroll a little of the genoa. As is not unusual, the genoa takes charge and unrolls more than intended. A broach develops and I find myself sitting in the cockpit with the sea filling it to the level of the engine revs meter (i.e: halfway up the seat backs) and threatening to overflow the top of my waterproof salopettes. Hastily regain control of the genoa and watch the water level drop back down to "dry". A quick check round reveals that remarkably little got into the boat or indeed the lazarette and I'm still dry inside the waterproofs! Nevertheless I shortened sail further when night came on, pumped the bilge and found no water in it, so we are really doing quite well. Am below with all hatches shut at 2245 when a big wave comes from astern somewhere and washes right over the cabin roof, converting Spearhead into a temporary submarine. Then it does it again at 2300 and 2310. At midnight we had 167 miles to go, but I wasn't going to open the hatch to find out how many miles the trip meter had recorded! Am slightly surprised (and thankful) that the Hydrovane continues to stay in one piece and function under these difficult conditions.
Thursday - Day 6
More big waves, but not quite of the submarine variety. At 0148 the Sea-Me detects a radar somewhere and at 0219 the ship passes at a safe distance to starboard - but it isn't until 0340 that the last of it is detected. Finding the service battery is down to 8.4V yet again, I change to Battery 2 to start the engine and everything goes out! Hastily back to N'o 1 again while I think.... Can't be that Battery 2 is that flat - try again with same result. Further thought suggests that perhaps a terminal is loose, so take torch and open up the battery locker (under the navigator's seat). At first sight all seems normal enough, but persistence reveals that N'o 2's positive terminal moves and eventually I get it done up properly and all back into their proper places. Now for the acid test - switch to N'o 2 and turn the engine starter switch - it works instantly and all is joy and light for the next couple of hours while the volts are restored. Didn't get splashed in the cockpit either. Didn't use the propeller again - I felt we were going quite fast enough anyway with all our dicky steering gear problems. When the time came to turn the engine off, then I got the soaking as it was getting "reely" windy and by 0920 was blowing a full gale. Reduced the only sail to about 2 square feet (otherwise she won't pay off) and set the long-suffering Hydrovane to run square downwind. At noon we had hove-to with 113 miles to go - hove-to because the vane's vane had finally collapsed and lay neatly upside down beside the still-wobbling mountings on the transom. I took in the debris, removed the nylon sleeve and transferred it to the spare frame, laced it up nice and tight, not forgetting the safety line, and had it out, back working in an hour. Sat there in the cockpit, sizing up the wind, which seemed to have something different about it although still currently 7-8 southwesterly. Suddenly spot a bulk carrier head-on and dead ahead about a mile away. Fortunately this one wasn't going at any speed, just heaving up and down and stemming the wind, so we sailed around her by making minor changes to Admiral Vane (he's been promoted!). After a bit the weather began to improve, with less wind and greater visibility and 2 yacht masts were seen - so I wasn't the only one out there after all. After tea I even chased one, but failed to catch it. However, it did serve to get more sail area up and working. At midnight there were only 76.4 miles to go, but we were going slowly and it was perishing cold and raining again. However we should be able to make it in to Barbate in nice time tomorrow.
Friday - Day 7
0100 - lightning seen to the NW. Hydrovane steering unsteadily, which is not surprising. Add my Ericsson fleece to the woolly hat and thermal long-johns that were already part of my attire. Also seems that the N'o 1 battery didn't get a lot of charge into itself earlier as it's back to 8.25V. Another two hours out of gear to restore it to a more healthy status - don't want to be caught without lights now that the Strait of Gibraltar is getting close. Otherwise it was a boring one-tack night. The wind and chop continued well into the day and, although I considered hoisting the mainsail several times, it did not finally go up until we were passing to the west of the Banco del Hoyo TSS and needed to make sure that we looked as much like a sailing craft as possible. By that time we had already passed the few bits of Morocco seen on this sail, mainly Cabo Espartel and some hilly bits to the south. There was quite a lot of ships using the Separation Scheme, but no problem finding a way between them, then a straightforward run into Barbate. After the fun with the battery earlier, I left plenty of time for the engine to misbehave before it was needed, but today must have been much sunnier than the last few days because, when I turned the key to start it (and without getting to the stage of changing to Battery 2), it fired up right away, courtesy of the solar panel I presume. So we were able to turn head-to-wind to get the sail down before entering the harbour proper, where the spray was breaking off and over the western breakwater. Secured to the Waiting Pontoon at 1758 (BST) and not a moment too soon! Due to the weather, the harbour is full of sheltering boats and there were only 3 berths available. I slept well that night!

Barbate to Algeciras, Thursday, 17th April 2008 - Data
The day started dull but at least the wind was in the right direction, west with a variable amount of south in it, which was really all that I had been waiting for. My near-neighbours disappeared suddenly while I was updating this computer for the last time while I yet had mains power, so I checked out and set off at 1148. There was a nasty lop outside, which made it difficult to stow the warps and fenders, then hoist sail but eventually we were under way. However Admiral Vane was rapidly demoted, as I couldn't get him to work at all and he seemed to only wish to go either hard right or hard left with nothing in between. I had thought that getting him properly fastened in place, as I had done in Barbate, would help him to work properly again - the tendency had been apparent towards the end of the sail from Lanzarote - but this was evidently not the case and I came to the conclusion that something in the mechanism was sticking. Perhaps he was just reluctant after the sterling work done already. For the present, however, I had an improving breeze on the quarter, all plain sail up, and the only way I could get the boat to go straight was by applying 20 or 25 degrees of corrective helm, which often needed both hands (and left me with sore arms and ribs by the end of the day). Taking Seaman Vane's rudder off was considered but I felt it was too rough. So we proceeded at some 5 knots with one rudder going one way, and the other the other - which probably cost us at least another knot in speed. Like last year, when I made the same passage, we had a good tide under us, but this time we didn't need to go out to the boundary of the Traffic Separation Scheme as I had a relatively early start tidewise. By Tarifa, usually the windiest point in the Strait, the wind was up to Force 5 but I hung on (with both hands) in the expectation that things would tend to moderate thereafter and indeed they did. By 1800 we were entering the Bay of Algeciras (or Gibraltar) and I furled back the genoa for better visibility in the traffic.
Now here I have to say that it was my intention to go to Gibraltar, because I would have liked to get some more up-to-date sailing magazines, tins of British-style food, and perhaps to find someone who could make a replacement lazarette hatch at short notice. So we crossed the bay diagonally, heading for the Marina Bay marina, in really quite striking weather, now with some blue skies, but also with dramatic evening clouds to the west. The wind had veered to about west by north. Arriving off the marina entrance channel, I tried to call them up on VHF, but obviously had the wrong channel in mind, as I got no reply. So down with the sails (in a manner of speaking), out with the fenders and warps and in we go under engine. At the further end of the jetties appeared a gesticulating man, so I approached him and he said they were full up! Go to Queensway Quay Marina. So I did, taking off the errant vane's rudder once we were in the shelter of the harbour mole (which improved the boat's handling enormously), but got very much the same reply there - although they did at least have the grace to apologise and give sketchy directions as to where I might anchor. Since the object of the exercise was to do some shopping, I really needed the shore berth. So I motored up into the lee of the detached mole and lay there while I considered the options:- to continue into the Med (ruled out because of the Hydrovane problem); to anchor as suggested (I didn't fancy that because it was already pretty rough on the Gibraltar side of the Bay and could well get worse); or to seek shelter on the Algeciras side for the night, which was the option taken. So we motored across the Bay towards the Marina del Saladillo, encountering an uncharted and unlit obstacle en route when nearly there (I couldn't decide in the dark whether it was just a very long fish cage or some new breakwater under construction), and duly entered the marina - Ah! blessed calm. It was now after 2200, so there was no-one about and inspection revealed that, although there were some entirely empty jetties, the rest of the place seemed as full as Gibraltar. The empty jetties either lacked mooring lines or were cut off from the shore by security gates, so in the end I opted to go onto the fuelling berth astern of another British yacht, Peace of Mind. Due to wet and windy weather, we are still here on Saturday - but at least it is free - and I have been able to work on Captain Vane, who has mysteriously come free again and now seems perfectly OK. For my next sail, please, I don't want anything too dramatic - just enough to test him out in normal conditions. This is composed mostly in the hospitable clubhouse of the Real Club Nautico de Algeciras, who are kindly allowing me to recharge my laptop's battery (and also seem to have excellent WiFi).

Algeciras to Gibraltar, Monday, 21st April 2008 - Data
After a quick, basic, shopping trip ashore and a check by VHF on the berthing situation at Marina Bay, I cast off at 1025 with a light NW'ly air to make another quick, but less basic, shopping stop in Gibraltar as outlined above. Unfortunately, when it came to setting some sail and Cap'n Vane was brought into play, it became apparent that he was really no better than before and swung from hard a-port to hard a-starboard and back again, with no straight ahead at all. In the end, I gave up trying to sail and just motored across the bay with the two rudders again in opposition, and thinking furiously! So the less said about this "sail" the better..... We arrived in Marina Bay at 1210 and booked in at the office for half a day (£4.25) then I zoomed into Sheppard's chandlery and enquired if they had someone good with Hydrovanes, whilst making some other minor purchases. It seemed that Sean, at their workshop at Coaling Island, was the man to get so I headed off there (it isn't actually an island, fortunately) and arrived while they were closed for lunch. However, I saw "the man" and explained that I thought the shaft must be bent forwards and he agreed to come and look at it ASAP - which would be tomorrow morning. So I had all afternoon for my other shopping, which was mostly done at M&S in Main Street. Then I had to confess to the marina office that my stay would be longer than anticipated: this was a story they were obviously accustomed to - "No problem, just settle up when you finally do go". After a siesta, I made another shopping foray and returned to find my bicolour lamp nudging the jetty. Tighten the stern line a bit and the jetty knocks the lamp clean off! Fortunately it floats well enough to be recovered, but it reminded me that it was overdue for replacement because the polycarbonate lenses were crazed, so back to Sheppard's for a new one, but they were out of stock. Must be a fast-moving line at Marina Bay, where the none-too-elegant jetties are just the right height for crunching them up!
Next morning Sean appears as scheduled (and with 7 boats to call upon) and takes a look at the gear. With the shaft issuing just about at water level it is very difficult to tell whether it is properly in line or not. However, he says to take Cap'n Vane off and he will be back in an hour after making his other calls. It takes just an hour to get it off and onto the jetty, where it is pretty obvious that the shaft is indeed bent, so he takes the whole gear back to Coaling Island, strips out the shaft, and straightens it hydraulically, and is back again at 1500. Much relief. The problem remaining, however, is to get it all back into position on the stern singlehanded. It isn't light and even the main halliard, from the masthead, is not sufficiently vertical to hold it in the right place while I get the clamps done up again - and the clamps, due to salt-water corrosion, need to be cleaned up too.... The dinghy was blown up and brought into play, so that I could get up and down to fit, adjust, re-tension the halliard, prop it out with the boat-hook, lubricate, tighten, loosen, and try again. It all ended when the dinghy tipped yours truly into the water and, inverting, all the bits and tools in the bottom too!
So our stay in Gib was prolonged for another night while a diver was procured to get it all up again in the morning, but at least, thereafter, things got better and we were back in sailing order, if somewhat the poorer, on Wednesday afternoon.

Gibraltar to Marbella, Wednesday to Thursday, 23/24th April 2008 - Data
For some time the weather forecasts and Gribs had been showing strong easterly winds coming in to replace the westerly conditions that had confined us to Algeciras, so I was keen to get as far as possible on our way into the Med before this actually happened. So, tarrying no longer, we cast off just after 6 p.m. and motored out into the Bay again to find very little wind, although what there was came from the south. Any breeze being better than none, I set all plain sail and tacked down the Bay, mostly between the shore and the parked tankers. The GPS showed that we were making not a lot of ground on each tack, although Cap'n Vane was doing all that could be expected of him, and this got less and less, so obviously there was a current against us as well as the wind. Eventually, having passed Rosia Bay once, I found we were passing it again in the wrong direction at 2130, so it was down to the Yanmar to take us round Europa Point and into the Med. There, far from an easterly, there was no wind at all so we carried on motoring through the anchored shipping until 2230. Then we stopped awhile while I warmed up food and ate and gave the wind every chance to appear, whether it be from the east or not, but no such thing happened. So, into gear again, and onwards towards Marbella. I used the Europilot to prop the helm and save the arm and shoulder muscles a bit, making small adjustments when we went off course, because Spearhead gets quite a bit of helm on from the propeller wash, and gets worse if the throttle is opened more. So we continued, very boringly, until we arrived at Marina la Bajadilla at 0430, when I secured in a vacant berth beside Total Eclipse.

The statistics show that we have been going rather slowly recently. This is because the log under-reads or stops altogether when we are going slowly, so we are under-recording on the distance. Nevertheless I have taken the log-reading as gospel even when it shows us covering less ground than the actual distance between ports (and normally, of course, what with tacking and other weaving about, we should show more). I am watching the situation here and will re-calibrate the log if necessary but, since it agrees well with the GPS when we are doing over 4 knots, am not rushing into inconsistencies. Once we are further into the Med, tidal effects will be less, but they are certainly not insignificant around Gibraltar as the above showed!

Marbella to Benalmádena, Thursday, 24th April 2008 - Data
Keen to get on and park the boat somewhere where I can catch a "cheap" flight home, now very much overdue and the seasons they are a-changing, I consult with the British neighbours about where best to do so. They say "Here", it's only €4 on the bus to Malaga airport and the berth you're in is empty anyway. I ask the marina office clerk while he is booking me in the same question and he says Benalmádena, big marina, regular and frequent buses to the airport! Since this is very much what I had planned, that is what I decide to do, but maybe I should have listened more to the neighbours... Go shopping for necessities in the town, lunch, adjust vane slightly and set off again at 1508 and find Harry Flatters outside, so motor for about three-quarters of an hour until there's some wind. Actually, it was easterly and on the nose, but it got up to a good Force 3 and we had a pretty idyllic sail:- Cap'n Vane worked well and most of our tacks bettered 90° over the ground - so tide with us. When the coast turned left towards Fuengirola, so did the wind, worse it started to fail, but we persisted and eventually got to our intended destination at 2155, when we secured to the waiting berth just inside the entrance to the marina

Benalmádena to Almerimar, Friday and Saturday, 25/26th April 2008 - Data
In the morning, when I went to book in, I was told that the marina was full! Apparently 1000 berths are not enough around there - they have a handful of berths for passage boats (i.e: staying one night maximum) and that's it - four or five weeks was quite out of the question! They did have the grace to waive any charge for use of the Reception berth, but please don't stay too long. So I got some more fuel and we set off again, only to find outside, when I came to hoist the mainsail, that Cap'n Vane couldn't hold the boat head to wind and we went round in circles. A quick check showed that a bolt had come adrift in the linkage - simple enough to fix, but with a big swell now arriving from the east (? presaging wind perhaps), I needed twice as many hands of less than half the size to hold everything in line while the bolt was screwed back into the connecting rod. So it was back into the Marina and onto the Reception berth where, with traffic going in and out and the swell getting around the corner, things proved little better. So I asked for another berth in a more sheltered location for an hour and was shown one. Here we went and, after borrowing a spanner of the right size from the boat next door, managed to put it all back into order (how many times have I said that recently?). The only cost was that of the bicolour lamp (of recent swimming fame), which was suddenly and cruelly crushed against the quay about 5 minutes after we arrived by a sudden swell or wash. I was very glad that at least it wasn't a new one!
So after a late lunch, we tried again at 1655 and this time got the main up with only one circle. However the swell was worse and the wind was less so we motored to nearly half-past five. Unfurling the genoa showed that there wasn't enough wind (or perhaps stability for the boat) to get it to draw, so in quarter of an hour the Yanmar was on again. There were several attempts like this overnight, but all had the same result - it was engine or nothing and I needed the better result. Along this section of the coast there are a few small villages and a lot of very big hills - the fourth row back was well covered with snow so I enjoyed myself picking out the possible ski-runs. We did successfully convert to sailing mode at 1120 on Saturday with a light southerly which later veered to west (and the swell had reduced at last) and continued this until our destination was well in sight. But at 1745, with the log not registering at all, off came all sail and we motored in for the last 6 miles to catch the office, arriving at 1944. We got a good berth, very handy for the Mercadona supermarket, and WiFi is now laid on (at reasonable expense) - tickets from the marina office. I have booked a flight home for 8th May, take off 1130 from Malaga! Only problem is getting there in time to check in - it looks like an overnight bus job. Benalmádena would have been much handier, but at least I have got a most tiring section of the coast out of the way and now have a few days to buy more spanners and titivate the boat here and there.

Almerimar to Cartagena (in stages), Friday to Wednesday, 4/9th July 2008 - Data
I got back out on 12th June as intended and (in between visiting a few beaches) fitted up Spearhead with Navtex (for weather forecasts mainly), a tricolour LED masthead light (to save electricity, always in short supply on a genuinely sailing boat) and LED bulb for the anchor light (same reason), a new set of properly dark Perspex cabin windows (to cut down the interior glare and afford more privacy inside in port), more lettering on the stern, a cover for the starboard lazarette locker (not finished but will serve until I can raise the steam to do the cosmetics) and a few lesser things that can safely be forgotten about. Once tidied up and scrubbed down, she looked really quite smart to this biassed eye.

Nice and convenient as Almerimar is, with a Mercadona supermarket (sort of Spanish Tesco) less than 100 metres from our berth and a good chandler within 5 minutes, there came a time to be departing, as indicated by westerly winds and a street fair setting up shop on the roadway all around us for a four day fiesta! So, having spent nearly all day getting things into place for actually sailing, we went round to the fuelling berth to top up the tank and booked out in the late afternoon. The idea behind this was to get out of the marina and anchor in the sheltered area outside for the night, so that I could do certain underwater jobs by swimming (not allowed in the marina) and we could get on our way with minimal further ceremony in the morning. The boat proved rather dirtier underwater in certain areas than expected, so my "swim" lasted the best part of an hour but was generally successful.
On the Saturday we did a repeat of last year's sail to San José in rather hazy conditions and, having got there, decided that was enough for my first sail for quite some time. It proved to be rather a joggly night and, with the benefit of hindsight, it would probably have been better to have parked in the bay immediately before, where less waves were getting round the headland. The net effect of this was that I wasn't much looking forward to Sunday's sail when it came to it - the wind was a brisk Force 5, occasionally 6, so we were well reefed and I had had enough at the first possible shelter we came to, and chickened out there, although the breeze would have been useful for covering some miles had I felt more like it. So we stopped in remarkably good shelter off the beach at Playa de los Muertos
(there was once a wreck thereabouts centuries ago), which was very well patronised for such an allegedly inaccessible spot. There were even 3 parties of overnight campers. This is just south of all the industrial installations at Carboneras, touched upon last year, so one has to orient oneself on the beach according to taste for the two types of scenery!
Come Monday morning, after a quiet night, and the S or SW wind had packed up and gone elsewhere, leaving only a feeble air with which to continue. That ran out after a few miles, to be replaced with another from the SE and soon likewise again NE. We just had to make the best we could of it, headed NE as we were, and were lucky to arrive off Aguilas in the gloaming. So, not fancying a night adrift, we went in. The yacht marina was of course full, so we anchored again amongst moorings off the sea front. This could hardly have been more different to the previous night, with a fairground in full swing as well as the usual sort of urban traffic. I did not go ashore, needing to pump up the dinghy to do so, although a replenishment of ice for the coolbox was very much overdue.
On Tuesday we did not make an auspicious start. The anchor came up well enough and we gently motored out to the entrance of the bay while I tried to hoist the mainsail. For some reason, possibly that we were going just too gently, the Hydrovane wouldn't hold our course to windward as intended, and we zig-zagged erratically all over the place. Then came unrolling the genoa, and here the furling line slightly jammed, then jumped up off the drum as the last of the sail suddenly issued forth and took 4 turns around the foot of the foil. That really took some sorting out, and I expect the good folk of Aguilas will be having a smile about it for a long time! Single-handed yachties? Pah! After that, it took an age to get to Monte Cope and another to get around it, so it was already time to be thinking of anchoring and here we were hardly started. However a more business-like breeze set in and after two long tacks we were headed for a point east of Mazarron, where I had last year noted a nice little bay, only lightly populated and well sheltered from just this sort of wind, so we headed in there in gathering gloom and finally got the anchor down in the dark. The shielding headland is called Punta de la Azohia on my chart and has one of those ancient look-out towers on it. This one, unusually, is hexagonal in plan and also floodlit at night, but not on all faces, so it makes a very distinctive mark on a hazy night. We found good holding in shallow water and slept very well....
The final leg into Cartagena was accomplished with remarkably little trouble. The wind was still opposed, but at least it was blowing a comfortable Force 4, so with 4 rolls in both the main and genoa we just took one long tack well out to sea, then chose the moment carefully, bearing last year's experience in mind, and took the other, even longer, back in again. Remarkably this took us to the centre of the entrance, close to the little beach at Cala Cortina, where the wind became erratic and failed temporarily in the lee of the hills, so the hint was taken and we motored in the last mile. The Royal Regatta Club here has got a very comely blonde to show us into a berth this year - a very crafty move! So here we are again, in 5 hops from Almerimar instead of the 4 it took last time, but at least we made it in good order. I have been to see the dentist and got an appointment for next Thursday, 17th (which does seem slightly quicker than in the UK) after which explorations must continue more rapidly northeastward before the season's over again!

Cartagena to the Balearics, Thursday to Saturday, 24/26th July 2008 - Data
With one enormous filling fixed and an appointment to do another on 11th September, a beach parasol added to the ship's complement, and a good stock of edible stores aboard, the time came to move on from Cartagena at last. We left shortly before noon, and immediately ran into a lack of wind - although it looked good enough, Cap'n Vane didn't like it and kept putting us in irons before we'd even passed the outer breakwater. So Muggins had to steer and find such wind as he could - probably not very well, because it took us until 2107 to reach our departure waypoint off Cabo de Palos. Conditions pleasant enough, although rather hazy, but it still took a few hours more before we had a decent breeze to give us some KNOTS! Then we ran under mainsail only until dawn; that's about 0700 in these parts, due to Eurotime, etc. By then we had broken though the Greenwich meridian and into Easterly longitudes at last. The boat was filthy in new sunlight, so I got out the deck bucket and sluiced it all down but, by the time that had dried off, the wind was dying again. We had 2 hours' engine charging from 1236 then resumed the battle with erratic airs, got a beam-becoming-broad reach and at sunset could make out hills on the mainland, silhouetted against it. Muggins at the helm again, all night - very dewy and damp. To keep the wind and in recognition of the fact that the only harbour with marinas would almost certainly be clogged solid at this time of year, I changed our arrival waypoint to the east end of Formentera, and hoped to find a nice quiet, sheltered spot to anchor when we had got round the corner. Having rounded Formentera Lighthouse (atop a 100m cliff) there was no wind at all, and yours truly was baked, so friend Yanmar was called upon to take us to our anchorage. So round the corner we went, to find that the wind now blew from the opposite direction and the bay, several miles long, was well filled with (mainly) motoryachts of all sizes and descriptions. WELCOME TO THE BALEARICS! I now understand about the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, etc. all travelling about in rowing galleys propelled by slaves. Only one thing has changed - now it's diesel..... We carried on along the north side of this peninsula until we came to Pujols, whose only facility for boats is a leading line, if you can find it, and there anchored on a nice patch of sand at 1520 and stayed a fortnight.

Pujols to Port Roig, Saturday, 9th August 2008 - Data
Don't time fly when you're enjoying yourself?! To aid our further progress, I had been cleaning the bottom of the boat with scraper and pot-scourer, and it was nearly finished at Pujols, but then there arose a swarm of little jellyfish with mighty stings (just like being whipped!) which caused a hasty exit from the water and presently from Pujols too. Upped anchor at 1622 and headed for an unpopulated-looking part of Ibiza. Weather excellent, wind obliged, boat seemed to go better too. Crossing the main route from Sabina (Formentera's only port) to Ibiza town was reminiscent of crossing the M8 on foot, but somehow we made it, passed various impressive headlands (and the airport), and checked out this bay near the end of yet another headland. At a quick count, we made the 50th boat in, but there was in fact room for several more and shelter not bad except to the SW, so down went the hook at 2116. Lo, there was a beach restaurant (said to be one of the best on the island) about half a mile away, where I could get ice for the cold-box, so we spent a second night here too, while the bottom-scrubbing was finished.

Port Roig to San Antonio Abad, Monday, 11th August 2008 - Data
Another short afternoon sail, through some spectacular cliff scenery. The island Isla Vedra rises to 382m straight out of the sea and is higher than nearly all of Ibiza itself. Geology here and adjoining "mainland" seems to be basically limestone, with formidable blocks, rifts and deformations. With the wind behind (Force 4), and our new slippery bottom, I didn't get long to look at it. After rounding some flatter islands, we came onto a close reach and thus arrived in San Antonio Abad. It would appear the marina bit is being expanded, but there was clearly no hope for us there and the anchor was in any case all ready, so we found a gap on the southern, opposite side (full of hotels) and dropped it there. In parenthises, I have yet to find out what the marina charges are here, because anchoring has always proved necessary. So, although the general level of prices ashore is often jaw-dropping - about twice what the same things would come to in mainland Spain, there is some form of compensatory saving where the boat is concerned. I guess San Antonio will be well-known to some at least of my readers as the largest resort on Ibiza - it wasn't quiet, and the holding was variable, so I was keen to move on. However one day I found a copy of The Times, and there were so many things going on in the rest of the world that I hadn't heard anything of previously, that I had to buy it and spend the next day reading it all and doing the puzzles.... Another day was lost to the weather when the wind blew straight in on us with considerable force - my anchor was lifted at 0500 by another (British) boat dragging and recovering its own, and a large catamaran (French) went ashore on a rocky bit and suffered considerable damage down below. Give them their due, the Spanish were efficient at dealing with the situation and had a hefty mobile crane alongside in about 5 hours, together with a tipper loaded with old tractor tyres and stacks of pallets, so it was out and propped up being inspected before siesta time. Our own damage, fortunately, was limited to a few chips off the bow, caused by the swinging anchor in hefty seas.

San Antonio Abad to Puerto de San Miguel, Saturday, 16th August 2008 - Data
Having topped up on ice from ashore, we set off before lunch and proceeded up most of the NW coast, dipping into every likely bay until we came to this one, where we stuck the hook in at 1650! Later on there was an exodus of weekending motor boats, so I was able to move further in, to the junction of two channels and get a good patch of sand there. Although the place is disfigured by two large hotels opposite, creeping up the hillside for about 12 floors, shelter is pretty good and there are three supermercados (all Spar...) for the necessaries, plus at least 2 places where I can get onto the internet, after a short row and 5 minutes' walk.

San Miguel to Portinatx, Tuesday, 26th August 2008 - Data
Continuing our clockwise circumnavigation of Ibiza, we hoisted sail, then the anchor, and set off for the island's northmost "port". The fact that the wind was contrary and none-too-strong didn't greatly matter, because it was ony a few miles away and the day was very pleasant in other respects. I had found in a bookshop in San Miguel a complete collection of aerial views of the coastline of Ibiza and Formentera, apparently taken about 1999 but very helpful in locating the nice patches of sand to lower the anchor onto. It was also good in confirming the exact location of other small features by lettting one identify the clumps of vegetation surrounding them, and one could also see that the rate of expansion of the developers was much slowed recently. Thus armed, we zigzagged along the shore, checking each bay and nook as we came to them and rejected each as either too exposed, or too narrow and deep for comfortable anchoring. Most of them did seem to have some scattering of boats, regardless of my stricter requirements, but it seemed that this would be due to their owners having property ashore there, or connections thereto. At one there was definitely a house-party in progress. In a very short time, we arrived at a nicer bay, with good sheltered arms and anchoring, and surprise, surprise! it was full of tourists and their accomodation and amusements. That was Portinatx... We sailed in past about a dozen yachts, chose our sand-patch and anchored in it. Apparently this is such an unusual manoeuvre there that within 5 minutes I had an invitation for drinkies aboard a schooner. Not much else done that evening!

Portinatx to Cala San Vicente, Wednesday, 27th August 2008 - Data
I shouldn't be too rude about Portinatx - from the shore all the developments are backstage and the following morning I was able to find somewhere to recharge my camera's battery, which had gone flat in the cave in Puerto de San Miguel. While it was doing so, I went back aboard and successfully freed off the port turning block, which I had found was jammed the previous day (probably from disuse and too much salt water and not enough rain). Then I recovered the battery, topped up the stores - especially another bag of ice for the coolbox - lunched, toasted my stern, and finally got the anchor up (under sail) at 1620. We had only a mile to go before rounding Ibiza's top, Punta Moscarter, marked with an imposing lighthouse above moderate cliffs and painted in black and white spiral stripes like a barber's pole. The wind, already somewhat shifty, now became hesitant as well but eventually settled down to Force 2 to 3 easterly, giving reaches and a final run as we came to Cala de San Vicente, which is around a corner, facing south. There we fell foul of a trap just inside the eastern headland, with swirls of net below little floats and only one relatively insignificant red plastic buoy outside to mark it. Following the shore round I spotted this outside us, but it was too late to jink round it, so I followed along the shore expecting to pass on that side. Guess what, it was connected to the shore, with hardly any floats to indicate its presence. Now I know what it feels like to be a tuna, minding my own business! However, I must record that we escaped in a way that tuna can't; I started the engine in reverse and got out backwards! Then we motored well clear of the net into the centre of the bay (backed by a row of three hotels and little else before the forest) and dropped the anchor just outside the row of little yellow buoys that marks the swimmers' limit. Time 1945 - that was a hard-working 8.6 nautical miles!

Cala San Vicente to Tagomago, Saturday, 30th August 2008 - Data
Tagomago is an island off that corner of Ibiza, distinguished by (according to my book of aerial pictures) "the best anchorage between the straits and Punta Moscarter". It also has its own sub-species of green lizard, bigger than the Ibizan ones so, although it's right in front of San Vicente, we had to go there. Our departure was delayed for 24 hours longer than might otherwise have been the case by me idiotically getting the previous afternoon's shopping (including a Daily Telegraph) well and truly soaked on departure from the beach in the dinghy, which all took a lot of drying out, even in those temperatures and sunshine. However, eventually we got on our way under sail, and again fell foul of the tuna trap whilst making our second tack of the afternoon! This time it was just a case of waiting until we had drifted off it, and in 2 hours the anchor was down again in the Port of Tagomago. I wasn't much impressed with the anchorage as such - although the wind was coming over the island, the waves managed to get round both ends, and the sandy strip was very close to the jumble of fallen rocks from the cliff face behind. I concluded that the book's recommendation was based on scenic rather than navigational considerations, as we had a fine view of a significant hunk of the Ibizan coastline. Apart from the lizards, which are numerous, one desirable residence in the middle, and one lighthouse at the south end, there isn't a lot to the island and the two anchorages on the outer side are definitely second-class. The night was quiet apart from the slurping of waves around all the boulders.

Tagomago to Santa Eulalia, Sunday, 31st August 2008 - Data
After the trip ashore, did some swimming and hull scrubbing and other domestic jobs but found when fed, rested and ready to sail that the wind had gone on strike. Ignored that and set the mainsail anyway and behold! a slight breeze appeared from the SW and filled in to a nice Force 3 as the anchor came up at 1816. So we had a gentle beat to Santa Eulalia. Was much chuffed when a Bavaria 38 crossed tacks ahead of us and, under the command of Cap'n Vane, we sailed through her lee and up onto her weather bow and a considerable distance ahead before he decided to put on the engine and head for Formentera. After that the wind obliged further to let us through some scattered rocks and islets off Punta Arabi on the one tack before finally going wonky as we arrived. Got the anchor down amongst the fleet assembled outside the marina entrance at 2045. Very satisfactory and a quiet night.

Santa Eulalia to La Sabina, Formentera, Tuesday, 2nd September 2008 - Data
The last marina we were in was at Cartagena, weeks ago, and the water tanks were getting a bit low, as well as food stocks, so I dinghied in the following morning and found that the minimum charge was for a full 24 hours and €43.50 (including water but not electricity)! Decided we needed the necessaries and would just have to get our money's worth and spend the next night there too. Hosed the boat down - she had been getting rather sandy - and did a number of other jobs, including moving the 'new' anchor and all its chain into the starboard cockpit locker. After provisioning, felt that Santa Eulalia had done quite well enough out of me and set sail, with dinghy on the foredeck, at 1325. An initial beat, after a couple of tacks, became a close reach so we had the right kind of sailing crossing the entrance to Ibiza port and town. Traffic was notably less than when we first arrived in Ibiza. Arriving off Playa de Cavallet (official nudist beach) we anchored for a couple of hours while I rowed ashore to check it out, then we resumed through the straits about sunset and arrived off another beach just outside La Sabina just as it became dark. There was another fleet assembled here too, and a mile's walk into "town". Being Formentera's only connection point with the rest of the world, La Sabina is very busy but very constricted by various bodies of water on all sides. However I did find one supermarket with quite the best range and prices in Formentera and most of Ibiza too.

La Sabina to Marina Greenwich, Thursday & Friday, 4-5th September 2008 - Data
We set sail and upped anchor at 1430 with no particular destination in mind other than somewhere on the Spanish mainland, and the further south the better. Winds typical - i.e: light and shifty, and usually failing just when you think you've got a good spell at last. Great difficulty to go any direction south of west and the swell made starboard tack particularly tricky. The best course we could make would take us to Benidorm.... At 2019 the setting sun silhouetted a hill - took its bearing carefully and found that it was just south of Dénia and 46.5 nautical miles away! Nice to know that Spain was still in the right place. Later on the wind got up a bit, and freed so that we could point for Alicante, with a precautionary reef in both sails. Forecast on Navtex suggested wind could get up to intervals of F7. New LED tricolour masthead light very faint when I turned it on - perhaps it's got sunstroke - so I put on the LED anchor light instead. We make better progress and I have to consider where to make for. Benidorm no good - no marina yet, although it could be that they have one under construction. Place with best shelter in case of Force 7's seems to be Marina Greenwich (so called because of its longitude) but the wind hasn't heard the forecast and presently eases and veers... By dawn we are back to full genoa and only making 2 - 3 knots in a NW direction. Since we are crossing a Traffic Separation Scheme area at the right angle on this heading, we have to stick with it awhile until clear. Battery volts are down to 6.45 so I ordain 2 hours of battery charging from Yanmar; at the end of this period there's no useful wind whatsoever, so we carry on motoring - all the way to Marina Greenwich! The Europilot autohelm is sadly missed in these circumstances. The marina turns out to be at the foot of a particularly precipitous development scheme with a semicircle of bare rock focussing the sun's now not-inconsiderable heat upon it, and hardly a tree to be seen. Go in 1216, book in, buy ice, put up parasol, eat, drink, and turn in.

Marina Greenwich to Villajoyosa, Saturday, 6th September 2008 - Data
Not a lot to be said about this sail - weather usual, wind contrary (just getting up to F5 at one point), and we passed Benidorm! Puzzled to see what appeared to be a genuine fresh waterfall issuing from the cliffs a couple of miles before Benidorm and no-one making any use of it. Had hoped to get as far as Campello before the wind dropped, but found instead, when it did at 1930, that we were 2.3 miles off Villajoyosa, so altered course and eventually arrived there at 2100. The marina is run by the local club and kept very smartly painted, but they don't take cards....

Villajoyosa to Santa Pola, Sunday, 7th September 2008 - Data
Got cash in town (when I had found where the town was) at Barclays Bank and left harbour at 1248. Today we made much better progress as the wind was aft. Cap'n Vane was making occasional clunks for no visible reason so I lowered the main and we continued broad-reaching under genoa only. Santa Pola was the obvious place to stop for the night, just beyond Alicante, and we duly arrived there, all secured at 1842. Upon entry some joker at the fuel jetty played the National Anthem for me - full version with orchestra and choir! Next along was the works where they build Astondoa motor cruisers. The next day was fiesta, local saint's day apparently. The girl in the office warned me that she wouldn't be in, but she didn't warn me that the celebrations started at midnight with a truly phenomenal fireworks display. I had to go on deck and do fire-warden duty as we were showered with burning debris, being some half-mile downwind of "Cape Canaveral".

Santa Pola to Torrevieja, Monday, 8th September 2008 - Data
Morning's shopping complicated by the holiday, but eventually achieved, and set off again at 1339. Wind still aft, so left main stowed and just ran under reefed genoa alone. Very murky sort of day, especially over land. Quite a lot of fish farms here - unlike much of the Med, the bottom doesn't just plunge straight down (the land's flatter too) - so they park them well out, to the point of near-invisibility from ashore. Fortunately they seem to leave lanes on suitable alignments for coasting traffic like us. Tied up at reception berth 1714 in the new Marina Salinas. The charts and almanac don't know about this place yet - it has only just happened this year - so (f you're thinking of passing this way) please note that Torrevieja now has 3 marinas, not 2! This one is almost empty, and has a mixture of jetties for the bigger boats and pontoons for the little ones. As you come in the entrance, it is on the right-hand side, behind its own (new) breakwater and before the fishing harbour.

Torrevieja to Cabo de Palos, Tuesday, 9th September 2008 - Data
Glad to be in a secure harbour as it was quite windy and I woke to find that it had been raining mud during the night. So most of the morning was spent in hosing the boat down while awaiting some sign of a lull. This started at lunchtime, and we got away at 1421. Outside it was still blowing from the NE about force 4. Again set genoa only, but full, and as the wind decreased I sought to speed things up by poling it out with the spinnaker boom. I had been intending to look into San Pedro del Pinatar (it's handy for Murcia airport) but in view of our progress soon cut this in favour of the little harbour at Cabo de Palos, which would make the last day into Cartagena shorter and more certain. So we were coasting down the length of La Manga towards Isla Grosa, the uncharacteristic little mountain that lies about 1½ miles off this sandbank separating the Mediterranean from the Mar Menor (and like Sandbanks in Poole Harbour grossly overpriced and overdeveloped), when I decided that I needed a sandwich. We were making a course that would take us west of one of the smaller fish farms and I went below to make the needful. Inside, the sea conditions necessitated putting all the ingredient containers on the floor and catching each as required from a sitting position on the leeward berth. So it took longer than might be expected to get my first bite, and I then stood up expecting to see the fish farm going past to port. Instead it was about 20 yards away and on either bow! Oops!! a slight misjudgment there!!!
Dashed for the helm and tried to steer between the cages (the only option with the sail as set) but got caught on ropes strung between the cages, which edged us onto the one to port. Time 1644. Fortunately, like most of these cages these days, this one was plastic and circular in plan, made of round Alkathene-type tubes. There was still a serious sea running, from the previous wind, and we banged down on the outer tubes with each passing swell. I furled up the genoa, in between trying to keep us off with the boathook (no chance!), and then looked to the stern to take the self-steering gear's rudder off. However its shaft was already seriously bent and nothing would allow me to take out the retaining pin, so that had to stay. I started the engine and, in intervals when the boat was lying between ropes, tried to manoeuvre away from the cage (the wind was at least favourable for this to a limited degree) and eventually got a yard or two, which was sufficient to reduce further banging on the big tubes. Considered using the radio but decided we weren't going to be wrecked for a while yet. After perhaps 10 - 15 minutes relieved to find that we were being bounced by the bigger swells over the ropes, one by one, so used the engine in little bursts to accelerate this process and, when we were clear, let the boat drift while I sorted out the resulting chaos. No leaks but probably some scuffing to the hull, no bent propeller shaft, spinnaker pole still aboard and attached to the boat, Cap'n Vane much the worse of wear. Lay ahull and drifted until reasonably shipshape again, then resumed under engine (in view of the steering problems) at 1730.
Had to keep the speed down in order to keep some control but in due course we rounded the lighthouse at Cabo de Palos, one of the more notable corners of Spain, and headed for the harbour. No reply to the VHF, in contrast to the last few days, so we just edged gently in anyway and found it packed well out the entrance canal. Continued in regardless and finally rafted up against an old-style wooden boat and went ashore for a consolatory feed-up in El Faro restaurant immediately over the road.

Cabo de Palos to Cartagena, Wednesday, 10th September 2008 - Data
In the morning I examined Cap'n Vane more closely and, with sundry means of leverage and in much calmer conditions, was able to take out a wiggly retaining pin from the head of his rudder. That just left me with a rather sloppy conventional steering system - there is about 25° of slack on the tiller, but at least, having moved this arm's length on the tiller first, you can still steer with it. Also checked inside the hull and found no evidence of any loosened bulkheads or engine mountings - so we seem to have escaped lightly. No sign of any harbour "management" so we resumed free of charge at 1124 and made our way in rather unco-operative winds but without further serious incident to Cartagena, arriving at 1914. Now for the dentist......

Cartagena to Almerimar, Tuesday/Wednesday, 2/3rd December 2008 - Data
It's been nearly three months since I last had a sail - incredible! Where did all the time go? Well.... in addition to the dental appointment, there was the little matter of the sloppy connection to the rudder - it was in no state to be setting out on a long passage to the Canaries! What made it bad, particularly, was that there was no apparent reason for it to be seen. It had always been wobbly, since I bought Spearhead, but was now rapidly getting worse and the fear was that soon the rudder itself would start breaking up if nothing was done. So, with a flight home already booked for the 22nd September, I set about arranging with the local yard to get it done when I returned. Saw the manager on Monday and that evening he texted and eMailed me to say "Can you bring it in at 1130 tomorrow?". big lifter There was a space in the yard until Friday evening. So the rudder was off on the Wednesday morning, back from the engineers (after much eMailing of photo's of the work in progress) on Friday morning, and then there was a song-and-dance to get it to fit and everything skeg-wise faired up, primed and re-antifouled before the final launching, which had to be postponed to Saturday despite overtime. Fortunately I took the precaution of paying on Friday. In between times we also cleaned down and re-antifouled the rest of the boat. So that was that part of the operation out of the way at no extra expense in time, as it were, if not in pocket. To keep things simple, we just got on basically with the rudder job and I left the Hydrovane problems until my return, although I did have time still to dismantle it to its constituent major assemblies before leaving for home.
The visit home got rather extended beyond what had been originally intended by my need to clear out of the BorroBoats shed (and make space for the proceeds at home) so that it could be vacated in November. Otherwise, I have developed a Lentigo maligna on my nose, and this had to be subjected to a biopsy, which took 2 weeks to get a result, and then they couldn't give me the answer on the 'phone but had to get an appointment to go down again for that. The necessary operation will hopefully be done in the Christmas holidays at some point. So far as sailing was concerned I got some spares for the Hydrovane, a new mainsail and a replacement for the Europilot, this one made by Simrad. The masthead LED tricolour light had failed and was returned to the makers, who returned it duly repaired under guarantee, saying that it appeared to have been struck by lightning or some similar electrical discharge and it was the first failure they had had. I got back to Cartagena on 14th November eventually, and set-to on the Hydrovane again, getting out the bent shaft with no further damage. It being by then the weekend, I had to wait to take it to the near-by "engineering" chandlery for advice and, of course, they said their man could do it. A week then passed of consecutive mañanas before I demanded where their man was, and then went there afoot and got it back, only approximately straightened when I started to take it out of the door.... Back then to the boatyard, and after various shenanigans and abortive attempts to provide a substitute, the foreman turned up with it all straightened out, for 2 hours labour charge! That man's a treasure.
All that then remained was to reassemble Cap'n Vane, but not all the spares fitted, grub screws couldn't be loosened, etc, etc, and then when it was all back together we had a few days of strong winds blowing from the wrong direction. Finally I spotted that for 24 hours it should blow from the NW instead of W or SW, and worked out that that should just do to get us to Almerimar - at 4½ knots it should take 24 hours 8 minutes! So, on this rather slim evidence, we set off at 10 a.m. on 2nd December, half expecting to be putting back if/when things went a-gley. It was rather an unceremonious initiation for the new mainsail, but it seemed to take to it well, and before we were out of the harbour we were doing over 7 knots. Once outside, we set course for the next 75 miles across the Golfo de Vera and went if anything even faster, until good sense prevailed and a reef was taken in. However, just to show that forecasts are fallible, after about 4 hours a sudden hole appeared in the wind and, although it returned only slightly diminished after a short while, any thoughts of breaking records between Points C and A were premature. Also it was darned cold, with snow on the hill tops to windward and the sun only too obviously away over the southern hemisphere. At least the forecast was right in that a bank of cloud not very many miles away to the SE just stayed there and didn't pour upon us. And the rudder worked a treat.
As the day faded, so did the wind, and to keep up our average from time to time the engine had to be resorted to. At night we had first Jupiter and Venus to steer by, shortly followed by the moon, while the bank of cloud turned out to have thunderstorms in it and set off prodigious flashes apparently over the shipping lanes further out. Sails were reefed, unreefed and furled in turn as the wind increased, decreased or disappeared, but as time went on it was more of the latter, with the Yanmar filling the breaches as necessary. As if there wasn't enough to think about, it became apparent that all was not well with Cap'n Vane, as the "works" at the top end slowly started to rotate anticlockwise. Obviously one of the clamps wasn't tight enough, and it probably was the top one, but efforts to straighten him up couldn't budge him and, with my record of dropping things overboard, I wasn't inclined to fetch out sockets and spanners. So we continued and he continued to work after a fashion but there was something else not quite right (apart from the worn bits that I knew about) and that was that he seemed to be making life difficult for the Simrad in motoring intervals instead of just trailing quietly along behind as he should, locked central. It looked like a case of incipient professional jealousy between the two automata - I did develop a theory about it and will work on that before we set sail again! We reached Waypoint 1 at 0302, so we were behind our schedule, and turned a bit right. This should have brought the wind a bit more ahead but either there wasn't any or the hills were lifting it right over us; either way we were motoring and this predominated for the rest of the trip apart from one half-hour. The concern now was to eke out the fuel - the tank is small and it wasn't full to start off with, but it was all we had and had to be made to do, so revs were kept low, which helped the Simrad too, as it had less propellor forces to offset. When Cap'n Vane, risking demotion, got too bolshie, I took his rudder off. So I guess the Simrad won! By the time we were at the harbour entrance, I had all sail stowed, fenders out both sides, warps ready, the lot: went straight alongside the Reception quay and was made fast at 1206 - about 2 hours late. We still seemed to have 1 to 2 litres in the tank. All the hills had white caps on, those inland truly solid, so I was glad to get into a nice sheltered berth, just 3 along from where we were last time, and feast, write up the log (the usual sort of difference appeared between the GPS and the boat's own paddlewheel log - the former says we cannot have done less than 110.0 while the latter counted only 85.5 miles), and turn in later for a good snooze. Going the other way in the summer, this trip took five days, but one was all the weather allowed this time and I'm glad I took the opportunity.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to all readers.