Revised: 25 March 2012 (picture gallery)

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"Spearhead" News - Part VI

Almerimar to Motril - Sunday, 5th June 2011 - Data
Quite a relief to actually get back to sea again after so long a delay. And the day was good for it too, with the "normal" blanket sunshine and a moderate SE wind to speed us in the right direction. It took quite a while to get out there, with a mooring shackle that did not want us to go, and cleaning off the self-steering shaft enough to be able to mount its rudder, but we did issue forth at 1315, dodge a racing First Class 8, and set a nearly-full main and full genoa. Soon there was little to do other than sunbathe while we proceeded along at 4 to 5 knots. By 1630 we were past Adra but the wind was failing, so the Tillerpilot was set to work to hold a steadier course than the Hydrovane could manage, then the Yanmar was started to maintain the necessary average speed, and the sails were kept up for as long as they helped. At 2048 we passed Cabo Sacratif lighthouse, close in, and there were noticeable swirls and debris here with the odd fishing float. Shortly after, I altered my original hope to reach the Marina del Este near Almuñecar and altered course sharply to go into Motril, arriving there at the Club Nautico de Motril at 2155. There was a marinero there to pass me warps despite the hour and the day.
Motril is a large commercial harbour about 3 km below the town and the entrance faces E, so despite being in its furthest corner we had a joggly night - not that it prevented me from having a good kip. The Club does its best to make up for the shortcomings of its location.
See this place on Google Maps

Motril to Fuengirola - Monday, 6th June 2011 - Data
Departed under engine in what was now a light westerly air and had the main up all ready by the harbour mouth. Found the wind strengthening and right on the nose once outside. Not a lot to be said about this "sail" - the engine kept going at 2400 rpm and the TP10 did the steering. Round about lunchtime a yacht was espied astern and gained on us from seawards, also motoring but obviously using a bit more of the throttle. He passed within 50 yards, a single-handed Frenchman in much the same size of boat, and ultimately disappeared into Caleta de Velez. I just kept going to get as far W as possible before forecast stronger winds from that direction. It was blowing a good Force 4 and slowing the boat considerably with the chop, but it did ease off in the evening. Made our way past the entrance to Benalmádena and found the entrance to Fuengirola at 2304. Once inside I selected a handy berth, whose owner was hopefully away on a cruise, and went straight into it. A local multilingual ex-fisherman kept me talking as I tied up until 2340, so the engine had to wait half an hour to get switched off!
See this place on Google Maps

Fuengirola to Marbella - Tuesday, 7th June 2011 - Data
If yesterday's sail was somewhat inglorious, this one was even worse... I just had time to get more cash and buy some fruit before a marinero appeared and harrumphed. I grabbed a coffee in the adjacent WiFi cafe and was checking my eMail when another man gave me orders to be gone in 10 minutes! Now I might have tried offering a small financial inducement, except that just having come from the hole-in-the-wall I had no suitable notes to offer, so I just went. Cast off, took a tour round the marina looking for Antonio's boat Tocviria, which was not to be found, and refilled my spare can (used the previous afternoon) at the fuelling berth. Then we set off properly at 1234, soon finding a Force 6 very fine on the starboard bow. Set engine revs to 2600 and take it gently, but at times we were down to 2.5 knots. Just past the first "corner", Punta Calaburras, while we were bashing straight into it, the engine slowed and died!! Immediately checked the tank - EMPTY - and poured in the 11.74 litres just purchased. Full marks to Yanmar's automatic air-bleed system; inside 13 minutes we were going again, with only four touches on the starter. All well in that department then, but next I had a touch of the mal de mer. The waves were fetching all the way from Gibraltar, of which the top part of the Rock was just hazily visible. At 1856, with the wind at last beginning to ease back, we arrived at Marina la Bajadilla, and was I pleased to get into a well-sheltered corner near the office.
The moral of this story is that fuel consumption more than doubles when you're bashing into this sort of wind. It takes a lot more juice to keep the revs at the figure you have set and, of course, the water speed drops too due to air drag and waves upsetting the hydrodynamics of the hull. Also I must check the cleanliness of the propeller!
See this place on Google Maps

Marbella to Puerto de la Duquesa - Tuesday, 14th June 2011 - Data
I was up early but had to wait for the office to open at 0900 and Mercadona at 0915. Nevertheless we were on our way at 1100, finding conditions calm but a little sloppy. Set revs to 1600 (the propeller had had an inspection and quick scrape while in la Bajadilla - nothing needed more serious attention) and proceeded past the entrance to Puerto José Banus without seeing any superyachts before a little wind sprang up from dead ahead, necessitating increase in rpm to 2000. Set course for Puerto de la Duquesa and, when the wind backed enough to allow it, set the genoa to assist and the main at the ready at 1415. The one sail gave us an extra knot until 1530, when we were 1.7 miles out, so bowed to the inevitable and furled it, in which process I banged my spine on a winch - OW! This bit of Spain seemed much greener than elsewhere - perhaps it was because of all the golf courses. Arrived in the harbour and motored in a bit, until I found a suitable berth amongst similar-sized yachts and there made fast at 1618. The staff at the Control Tower were not best pleased with this however and, on reporting in, they ordained a move to another jetty still further in, which was soon accomplished. This place has free WiFi harbour-wide, but they omitted to give me the key until I went specially for it the following morning...
See this place on Google Maps

Duquesa to Bolonia - Wednesday, 15th June 2011 - Data
The next morning dawned very calm and with thick mist, so I went for a stroll southwards along the beach on my way back from the Control Tower, for an hour each way, during which time the mist lifted and then came down again as thick as ever. After a little use of the internet, just to prove it worked, we set off again at 1443, reasoning that all we had to do was to follow the shore and no big ships could come near us, even if they wanted to. Visibility varied quite widely for the next couple of hours from 1 cable to 1½ miles, during which we passed the entrance to Sotogrande, and then we could (hazily) see the Rock of Gibraltar and make our way down its East side to Europa Point - end of the Med - which we rounded at 1810. This was just the right time to catch the ebb out through the Strait as planned, so we kept going West, rather than turn in to see the apes. There were a few ships and ferries going in and out, but nothing to worry us as we went on our way through some swirly water. A pod of dolphins checked us out. Initially we headed fairly well out down the Strait, but soon decided that closer to the North shore was the place to be, and we passed Tarifa, still motoring, at 2114. A few yachts were going the other way, regardless of the tide, and I assume that they were desparate to complete their passage to the Med and catch the pubs in Gib. My echo sounder had been playing unreliable for a few days, so I checked on it and the log stopped working in sympathy! I put more oil into the sounder's housing (best virgin olive oil) and it gratefully resumed normal operation, so we had only lost our mileage up to that point.
Headed up the coast, carefully avoiding the shallow patch, and inched carefully in the gloaming into Bolonia Bay, which has a noteworthy sandy beach, and dropped anchor with 5m still under the boat at 2302 off the first of the rocky section further out. I was expecting a Full Moon to aid with the illumination but when I glanced up for it, it had a small cloud in front of it, or so I thought. When it was still there several minutes later I realised that the moon was in fact being eclipsed - and not a small cloud at all. That had obvious tidal implications, but my tidal information after over 2 years in the Med was scanty.
See this place on Google Maps

Bolonia to Caños de la Meca - Thursday, 16th June 2011 - Data
After a wobbly night, I woke early and spent some time reorganising the chart table for Atlantic use, then we continued on our way with the hope of reaching Rota, 46 miles away and a bit handier than Cadiz. After a spell of mist, we set off at 1132 and dodged through a tide rip at the headland, finding it was in our favour for once. By 1224 Cabo Trafalgar was visible ahead and it was now merely hazy, except inshore. Hoisted the main but kept motoring. At 1324 we arrived off the big tuna net system that extends out of Barbate Bay and were signalled by magnificent gestures from a fisherman to go around the end, which we did, although it took 19 minutes to reach it. The wind was now up to Force 4 and of course on the nose. After a hour we were closing with Cabo Trafalgar (pictured coincidentally at the head of this page with us going in the opposite direction - about the only picture I have of this equippage actually at sea and sailing) and it seemed appropriate to anchor in the bay to the right and wait to see if the wind would reduce in the evening. If it did, then we probably had enough fuel to get to Rota in a calm; if not, then it was only a short distance to Barbate for the night. Having been there twice before, I was not particularly keen to go there again, as the marina is a long way from the town centre. So in we went carefully, keeping off rocks to the left, but not too far, so as to keep their shelter, and dropped anchor with 2 metres of water under the keel at 1510 and had a rest. Position was checked with the GPS and the anchor held once we were settled. By 2000 the wind was reducing but a swell from the opposite direction was becoming apparent, making little breakers with the spray blowing backwards off their tops. So 10 minutes later, I went to get the anchor, and as soon as it was safely aboard we touched bottom. Apart from the usual curses, I was not much concerned at this stage (I have plenty of experience in getting out of this particular "problem"), but went back to the cockpit and tried to reverse off. Moved about 4 feet and stuck again. Made a tour of inspection from the deck and could see no deeper water in any direction. Tried a little forward-and-back with the engine without effect, then the same with the genoa set to heel the boat - no good either. Soon we were obviously standing on the keel with the normal waterline several inches out, and falling from side to side according to waves from one side and wind from the other. Furled the genoa again and made the big decision to ask for help.

at Caños - Thursday, 16th to Wednesday, 29th June 2011
After nearly an hour of vain endeavours to refloat the boat, I made a manual (as opposed to DSC) distress call, which was quickly answered by Tarifa Rescue Centre and an English-speaking operator. I explained my predicament and gave a GPS position, since Caños de la Meca did not seem to produce any recognition from him. I asked for a small boat, such as a RIB, that could work in shallow water, but was told that they were primarily interested in saving life and the Barbate Lifeboat would be with me in 9 minutes! I tried to explain that I was in shallow water, and could walk ashore if it became necessary, but there was no need to do that for the present. No direct response to that point, and sure enough inside 9 minutes there was the Lifeboat coming straight towards me. I had seen it in port before - it is a deep-V aluminium high-powered macho government symbol, twice the length of Spearhead and totally unsuited to inshore work. I thought it had a RIB on the stern deck but, if so, I didn't get the offer of it that night - the boat stopped about a quarter of a mile away and announced it could come no closer. As it presently got darker, they turned on its searchlight, which only succeeded in dazzling me. Floating a line in would not have worked with the offshore breeze. After some time I suggested that it went home, which would at least allow me to see better, and I would keep in touch with Tarifa hourly until high tide floated me off again. To stabilise matters in the meantime, I dropped the anchor (the SouWester) off the bow, with its short length of heavier chain and a few fathoms of warp, and started to blow up the dinghy so that I could row it out into deeper water. It was at this point that events took a totally unforeseen, even Grand Guignol, turn for the worse.
On the now uncovered rocks to the West, two guys in casual attire had appeared. I had no idea who they were and was wary of assistance offered by longshoremen. They started to shout, in Spanish of course, and the general drift seemed to be that I should leave the boat. This was exactly what I did not intend to do - and continued to pump up the dinghy. The men then waded out to the stern and I could see that one of them was wearing a very-second-hand-looking over-jacket marked "Guardia Civil". I told them to go away and let me get on with my work. They did not, but started to lay hands on the boat, so to deter them I took the only handy weapon, the Whale tubular pump handle, and whacked whatever they were touching with it: - just in case they were actually some form of police (although what this affair could possibly have to do with them I failed to see) I took care to not quite hit them, but just to deter closer acquaintance. One of them actually took hold of the ensign staff and pulled it down, breaking the tack weld that held it at the best angle, and I rapped that too. The bi-lingual argument then went something like this:-
"You are to come with us ashore."
"I cannot leave the boat. I have work to do to refloat it."
"You are in great danger."
"No, I am safer here than standing in the water with you. I am an experienced sailor and Capitan."
"You must come with us to save your life."
"If conditions get worse, and they are not, then I can still walk ashore. You are not needed here. Go away!"
"You are under arrest." (That actually was in English!)
"Go away - I must get on with the work to save my boat."
They did then back-off for a few minutes, which allowed me to finish pumping up the dinghy, but only to return with reinforcement in the shape of a third man. This character made much use of the term "Walkie-talkie" and after some further minutes I allowed him aboard to speak to Tarifa, in the hope that they could bring some sense into the situation. However, once inside the cabin, he made no attempt to speak to them but used this position to prevent me going below too. Then he grabbed my right arm, applied a half-Nelson to it and the other two came aboard uninvited, put the dinghy over the side and started lifting my legs over the lifelines. I freed my arm at an opportune moment and held on with both hands to the grips on either side of the hatchway. Number 3 took each finger in turn and forced it back until I had let go. Then they put me in the dinghy entirely. Having made my point that I was not leaving willingly, I thereafter made no further resistance in the expectation that I would be able to have some rational discussion with a senior officer (if there was such) and get the matter speedily cleared up. I was taken to the rocks in the dinghy, got out and was taken by a man on each arm up to the beach. The third pulled the dinghy up a few feet and dropped it. It is a robust, Hypalon dinghy and surprisingly heavy and I tried to indicate that it should be taken up the beach and put above high-water mark, but they were having none of that and hustled me up the beach regardless. The dinghy, sadly but unsurprisingly, hasn't been seen or heard of since.
The first confirmation that I had that my captors were bona fide police was when they put me into the back of a 4x4 marked "Guardia Civil". I enquired where we were going and was told to Barbate. It is only a few minutes' drive and after going about halfway up the main street, we turned left and presently arrived at the Guardia Civil compound. There my watch, small change and haircomb were removed and listed but, instead of being interviewed, I was shown into a detention cell and the door locked. From now on, not having the time meant that I had to guess at what was going on with the the boat and the dinghy, and it made keeping a mental record of what happened when, just that much harder to keep. I did know, from the earlier conversation with Tarifa, that low tide was about 2222 and this was just about the time that we arrived in Barbate. The cell had no windows or external ventilation and was lit by a single bulb shining through a steel plate with holes bored through it, which gave direct illumination only to the top right corner. To the left was a bed, a mattress on a solid base with a small space beyond the foot, while to the right there was a half-height wall jutting out with a Spanish squat toilet behind it and a knob to flush. Everything possible was tiled with the same big, yellowish tiles - boring but, to be fair, clean. (I was interested to note that the tiles were butted up tight against each other, so that the joints were almost invisible - presumably with the idea of making it more difficult for me to tunnel my way out.) There were a bolster and a blanket on the mattress, also clean. After a short time, an officer came and handed me two paper cups of coffee through a sliding steel panel in the door, about a metre above the floor. Later on, when I complained of not having eaten since mid-afternoon, another man went out and presently returned with a double-decker ham and cheese sandwich, which apparently his wife had run-up for me. Being in a somewhat disturbed state, it was more than I could manage at the time, but I was allowed to wrap up the remnants and keep it for later, and just as well. That was when I had been taken out of the cell and was having my identity checked. Initially, when brought in, I had only given my full name and date of birth, questions such as "Passport Number" were answered by saying "That's on the boat" - just to bring the point home. By the time of this second interview they had already got my Passport number from somewhere or other. Back to jail to nibble my sandwich..... Later on I was told by the duty officer (who could speak reasonable English when he had a mind to) that there were two men guarding my boat from the beach and, perhaps better still, a marinero would go aboard the boat at next high tide and bring it to Barbate. With this news I relaxed a bit and managed to drop off for a time. Then I thought of the dinghy and asked about it - a flurry of radio resulted in the information that they could not see it! So much for the guards.
One problem that arose was the amount of misinformation flying around. If I asked the time, more often than not I would be told it was 12 o'clock. Several times I was told "Your boat is perfect". Susceptible to flattery as I may be, I suspected that this was not quite what my informant intended to convey. Perfectly safe, totally wrecked, or what in between? Above all, I wanted to be able to see for myself what was going on, but there seemed little chance of that. At some time in the morning I was roused to speak to the marinero, who asked sensible questions about the anchor and cable, engine, etc.; later I was told that he had been to the boat and found it "quite impossible", from which I concluded that a) he was probably too late aboard and/or b) she had moved inshore of where I had dropped the anchor off the bow and was now in even less water than before. No comfort to be gained there for a troubled mind. Then I got out of doors momentarily, being taken across the yard to another building, so it was daylight again and now I found myself being photographed and fingerprinted (and palmprinted too), which seemed to take an inordinate time. With modern technology it is difficult to be certain what may all be going on, but I suspect each print was being subjected to comparison with the main Spanish (and possibly Interpol?) databases as it was taken and as there were no matches it just took so much the longer to be sure. To pass the time, I put the "Spearhead" web page on the boffin's laptop, but don't know if he ever took a good look at it. Then back to my cell again.
Ultimately it really was 12 o'clock and I was taken through the town in the back of the most uncomfortable car I have ever been in, to another place that transpired to be the court house. We went through a roomfull of clerkesses and round a corner and I found myself in front of a middle-aged woman sitting in front of a portrait of the King and with a fine selection of Spanish and Andalucian standards in the corner. This had to be the judge - and there was an official interpreter and a panel lawyer provided too. What exactly the charges were wasn't made clear to me (and I might have had some difficulty in not laughing had they been so) but I answered the lady's questions as seemed most appropriate - they seemed somewhat technical - and she dictated what was to be recorded at rather more length. After a few minutes it seemed the hearing was over, and it was explained to me by the interpreter that the sentence would be given me by the Prosecutor, not the Judge, and presently it came through that I was sentenced to 12 months for not obeying the command of a Guardia Civil and a further 6 days for resisting arrest. So I am now a convicted Spanish felon! Of course, this being Spain, there are a few let-outs:- firstly, since I was previously of good character and a first offender, the sentence is reduced by one third automatically. Secondly, the whole thing is suspended for 2 years, so all I have to do is not to get into any further trouble. So, no more running aground in Spain, then!
After that, it still took until 1600 before I was returned complete with small change, comb and watch by 4x4 to Caños de Meca. As we came down the hill at the back of the village I could see Spearhead was still there, afloat, with the new genoa unfurled and flogging in the fortunately not very strong breeze. Arrived on the beach, there was of course no dinghy and although I could have waded out, I know that actually getting aboard from the water without a boarding ladder or other support is difficult. My captors withdrew, taking their colleagues who had been watching the boat with them and I was left to sort out the situation by myself. Luckily there was a RIB nearby, dropping someone off on the beach, and I got a lift out with them so was soon back aboard my unfortunate boat. It was not good for making an instant getaway - the genoa sheets were wrapped three times around the luff foil just above the drum, and a tug on the anchor warp, which had been let out further, showed no resistance from the far end. At least the engine started as usual, but as we were about a foot more out of the water than we should have been I was fearful that the cooling water intake was not getting an adequate supply and soon turned it off again. The sheets had to be freed by untying and unwinding them one at a time, not an easy job at the tip of the bow with the boat toppling randomly with every wave, and then I could furl the sail properly from the cockpit. By that time the boat had already halved the distance to the shore and all I could do was watch as she was swept in by successive breakers, broadside and heeled hard over to starboard. By 1630 we were high, if not yet dry, and I could step ashore from the cockpit, but did not do so until I had handed the grab bag and other bags, etc. to willing helpers grouped to meet me on the beach. They took them above High Water mark, piled them in a heap, and so established what became in my mind "Base Camp".
Where we ended up
This was on the afternoon of Friday, 17th. It quickly became apparent that there were some really useful people amongst the crowd of holiday-makers on the beach. One to get in early was Salvador from Barbate, who gave me his card saying that he was a professional diver and salvage man, and he really would like to help. Another was José, who later turned out to be a very busy professor at the University of Seville - he had excellent English and offered his services as general translator and connector to the internet. He was on holiday from the heat of Seville with his wife Martine, who kept turning` up with thoughtful little gifts that did much to keep up my morale and physical well-being. Their next-door neighbour in the flats towards the village was a Swedish businessman, Olof who, although a couple of years older than myself, had still not retired and probably never will. "Let us oldies stick together", he said - and we did. He also had excellent English as well as Spanish and Swedish, and business interests in all three countries. There was also a Natural Park warden, who said basically that I shouldn't be there, but he would do what he could to get us back to sea ASAP. However he never re-appeared! My own thought on "landing" was that the only way we were ever going to get back to sea again would be with the aid of one of those 16-wheel, all-powered, all-steering cranes that they use for erecting and dismantling tower cranes (such as I had seen in use for a comparable job in San Antonio Abad, Ibiza in 2008) but there was some doubt whether it could run on the beach, even with all-wheel drive, if one could be found with an owner willing to risk it. The sand was shell sand, with moderate grain size and light in comparison with normal mineral sand. When the tide went out we were able to see that the bottom edge and back corner of the rudder blade were damaged, but not so as to disable the boat, and the bottom of the keel was stripped clean of all paint and filler by the constant banging on the rocks. It wasn't even rusty! The starboard side on which she was lying was the great unknown area - we just had to hope that there were no serious stones lying underneath it, which might grind their way through. The other big question was whether I could keep the boat and its gear together. This part of Andalucia is one of the poorest parts of Spain, and I later found out has a long history of wrecking and smuggling (like Cornwall), so I could expect a string of nocturnal visitors with screwdrivers, bolt-croppers and spanners at the ready! Once the tide had ebbed, I put the luggage from Base Camp back into the boat for the night, trusting in the offshore breeze to keep the size of the breakers down at high tide in the early hours. There were 5 bags and they all had sand, which I didn't want inside the boat, on the bottom.... Then I put in the hatch boards and lay down in the angle between the seat and back cushions of the "downhill" berth and tried to get some sleep.
Fortunately for the first night there were no "visitors" and when the tide returned in the very early morning, it did not come high enough to shift the weight of the boat at all. Inside the boat, conditions were not conducive to sleep - it was rather like being hard on the wind on port tack only more so, due to the angle of heel. Each wave slapped the bows and vibrated the rig, rather like falling off a wave, every ten seconds or so. The rudder was deliberately left unlashed, but finally settled at hard-over to port and sand started to build up behind it. The Achilles 9 metre was designed for deep water with a draught of 5' 6" on a beam of 9', but on the hard the resulting angle of settlement proved a bit of an embarassment. Some hot soup or porridge would have been very welcome, but quite impractical - the cooker was so far over on its gimbals that it covered the main gas tap, which has to have extra room for its little knob in the "On" position. So you could either have it "off" and the top level, or "on" and the top inclined at about 20º - cold commons for the duration then.... Other problems caused by the angle of heel were mainly to do with finding secure footing as one moved around the boat - all normally level surfaces were useless - so the favoured routes used either the fore-and-aft seat edges or the bottom of the trough in the downhill berth. Neither route did the Welsh Cloth upholstery any good but most of the time (in the interests of sand reduction) it was at least done in bare feet. To keep a svelte roof profile, the designer, Chris Butler, had kept headroom modest, so it was a bit weird to find it greatly improved at this angle if standing in the trough, although one's head was then in line with the opposite berth front. The stowage in the table took all this in its stride but the plastic box and the toolbox on the floor had to be propped up with the cool box, as is usually the case when under sail. Although not particularly close to the hatchway, the angled top to the half-bulkhead forward of the navigatorium was another useful step on the way in from or out to the cockpit. The loss inside the cabin of all normal references to the horizontal meant that one had to think twice before attempting, for example, to lob something into the gash bag or forepeak or considerable inconveniences often resulted.
Saturday, 18th was started off at 0744 when 5 hearty Guardia Civil rapped on the hull, for what reason I could not establish. It certainly wasn't to give me some help because, having got me on deck, they then marched off in big boots to the lighthouse end of the beach, then back to where their 4x4 was parked on the road and disappeared. Result: one bewildered sailor! Nobody else was around, so I made a short recce. At 1000 Salvador and José came as arranged and it was obvious (it now being near low tide) that Salvador's original idea of floating us off with extra buoyancy over the rock shelf would not work and we basically needed a BIG MACHINE. Salvador went off in search of one at a reasonable price. Then Olof found a firm that could come today and we wait for them to appear. Turns out that they don't actually have a crane, but were proposing to use some sort of tractor to pull us backwards up the beach using the anchor warp. One look at the keel convinced them to go away! Back to Square One. This being a holiday beach and a Saturday, we found we were the Number One attraction and photo opportunity - a constant stream of questions and bikinied, sometimes topless, lasses posed against my safety lines sticking their good points out - I soon began to wonder how we could make some money out of the situation, but never did quite crack it. After the initial enjoyment, however, it really did become tiring. A bloke on a bike, Fernando (from Gran Canaria), brought me two cold beers, which we shared and arranged that later on after the numbers on the beach reduced he would take me for a shower in his holiday house, meanwhile returning to guard the boat for me. The afternoon high tide saw for about an hour a big swell moving the boat about. I took the anchor rope ashore from the bow and tried pulling the bows round to get her more beam-on to the waves, i.e: slopping up the slope of the keel, but without any effect. The angle of list increased to over 50º. The big question was when to remove the valuables, but I kept an eye open for water inside; there was none and eventually the tide ebbed. It was however quite stressful and I decided to play it safer in future. Should the hull be breached, then all was up, but I did not want to have to get out the valuables in a hurry, even though they were now being stacked in the chart-table area. About 2100 Fernando came as arranged and took me to his holiday hovel, went back to the boat and I had a relaxing shower and shave. When I returned, it was to the news that there had been an intruder aboard during the 8 minutes that there was no guard. He had been challenged, fortunately, by some nearby picnickers and then Fernando himself when he returned, so had dropped what he had and walked off apparently empty-handed. It still took quite some time to verify that nothing was missing, as he had been through all the bags and camera box in the few minutes he had been inside. Nevertheless the lesson was clear: constant vigilance is the only way to keep your stuff!
Sunday, 19th: having been somewhat alarmed at the way the swell increased as high tide approached yesterday, I woke at 0200 and worried about it, even though it was flat calm and the ensign was hanging limp and vertical, there was still a swell coming from the direction of Tangiers. So at 0345 I took the bags ashore and parked myself on the beach. Nothing happened and I eventually returned aboard with the bags to sleep a bit before breakfast. Olof and José visited and there was much discussion and brainstorming, with further reconnaissance of the beach to find the best part for relaunching - it seemed to be about 200 metres NE and was deeper as well as rock-free. José brought some useful papers, especially tidal predictions for the month, which confirmed that we were well and truly neaped already. There were other suggestions from passers-by and some welcome food donations, mainly fruit. I had to keep chomping to keep up with the supply and fancifully thought of opening a fruit stall to make a living here permanently. Most ideas came from people who had no idea of how much the boat weighed, or how high and unwieldy it became once upright. One zany idea was to lift it out to sea with a helicopter - shades of "Beam me up, Scotty!" - and I did get through to the US Naval base at Rota, but didn't receive much encouragement from the duty officer. At 1600 it was time for Bags Ashore to Base Camp again: this time got properly organised with the bags resting on the inflatable but leaky plastic air bed to keep them off the sand, and the parasol to shade them and me. When we do return aboard, left the air bed and rolled-up parasol on the beach ready for next time - and no-one pinched them at least. Dined on cold moussaka in the cockpit and quite enjoyed it, then turn in early. Woken at 0040 by a loud party of would-be wreckers, who were put to flight when I suddenly opened the hatch, dropping the deck torch as they went. That was the second time it had been a target - which seemed a little odd considering its battered condition, nearly flat battery and rusty bits.
Monday, 20th was started with a spell in Base Camp from 0430 to 0830 and the wind changed direction and got up to SE5. There were some all-night revellers with sangrias to keep me company. Later on in the morning there was a two-hour meeting of all interested parties and contractors - Salvador and diver, Vito - who has a digger used for armouring breakwaters with big rocks, José as facilitator. The main problem seemed to be finance - the salvage men wanted their money in advance - and of course there would be no liability for damage done. I invested quarter of an hour of international mobile telephone time in calling the insurance brokers. At least we had a clearer idea of the problems to be got round. The bit I liked least was the idea of dragging Spearhead on her beam ends, even on soft sand. I tried a lie-down afterwards, but no chance of a bit of kip - more visitors... Then about 1630, Olof came and helped carry up bags to Base Camp and soon after, José came with recent eMail and Claim Forms from the brokers. He had to go to his proper work for several days, but did not forget us with a stream of eMail via Olof. Towards High Water about 1900, there were a lot more waves suddenly moving the boat about and I tried to pull the bows round but, even though I got 6 men on the warp, could not do so and, in the end the bows pointed even more seaward. A nasty little demonstration in just how powerless we were when the sea decided to act. Took photos and watched the kite-surfers, of which there were a couple of dozen in this relatively confined area. Returned aboard 2055 with yet more dietary donations and had more visitors with beer. Started on the Claim Form but decided that sleep was more important. The airing of problems today was valuable for understanding each others' viewpoint, while showing that we did indeed have the same objective, so there are some grounds for optimism. But when I dig out my duvet for the first time, having previously slept fully clothed, I find it is damp with a mixture of bilge and fresh water from the tank locker....
Tuesday, 21st: ashore for HW at 0730, but waves only just wash around the boat and not likely to move her further for a few days. Completed the Insurance Claim Form. Today would be a good day for a relaunch, were it possible - wind reduced. Olof comes about 1045 and I give him the Form (6 pages) to fax to José and the brokers. He stays until lunchtime. US Navy helicopters fly all round the bay in the morning, which is frustrating. No word from Salvador, which worries me too. Leave bags ashore until after Low Water, then take all aboard and have a siesta. Then all out again in the evening, just in case. Am on the 'phone at 1940 when the boat turned a few more degrees. Oops!
Wednesday, 22nd saw me ashore with the bags at 0617 and, there being no-one about for once, I took a short stroll to the end of the lighthouse "island". Wind offshore when it comes. Later on get through to the British Consulate but it seems they cannot do much to help. Also ring Salvador, who promises to come in the afternoon. Olof returns my Claim Form, then stays for an hour to watch the boat while I go "ashore" to buy bread & fruit and have breakfast at the Mini Golf Café. Apart from my shower, this is the first time I have been out of sight of the boat since stranding. In the afternoon sit on the beach and await Salvador, who doesn't come. At 1911 two guys come and offer me a stash (declined) and then go over to the boat and start rooting about in the cockpit locker - Oy! I have been hearing that Caños is a main centre for the hash-smugglers and I guess this was a practical demonstration of the results. It may also help to account for the behaviour of the Guardia Civil, who regard any unusual boating activity with great attention to any possible smuggling ramifications. Only take 2 bags to Base Camp for HW and nothing ensues. Spend rest of the evening going through the bags and making a less hasty and more logical selection of gear within them. Not for the first time have a debate with myself as to when and if I should abandon my ship. Since the hull still seems sound and the sea is certainly not getting in, and I have good people working with me and no immediate time constraints, I decide that that time has not yet come.
Thursday, 23rd: wake just before 0700 to find we are being inspected by a holiday-maker: speaks good English (in the Rioja trade) and has a good appreciation of my predicament and the tidal considerations - his name is Moses. He promises to return with a good wine and cheese lunch later. Then two Guardia Civil appear and stay about 10 minutes but as usual they have no English, so no enlightenment as to why they are there. Decide no need to take the bags to Base Camp today and have a shave there instead. Moses returns earlier than expected, about 1045 and we drink very good wine and eat slabs of cheese sitting on the coaming. While we are doing so, Salvador materialises (I rarely manage to spot him coming - it is almost as though he has been beamed down by Scotty) and I discover that he has chosen the 28th as the first possible date for relaunch as we come up to the next set of spring tides. Meantime the place we are in is probably the most sheltered on the beach, thanks to the wide shelf of rocks immediately below us, so we just have to hope that the weather does nothing drastic... After the wine I need a snooze, then am driven by the heat to sit under the parasol at Base Camp to get cooled by the breeze (N5, temperature according to the fridge's thermometer gets up to over 37º). Take the damp duvet ashore to dry out and lie on. Olof comes for about an hour bringing a fistful of eMails from José, with salvage quotes from Salvador and Vito. Subtract them from the boat's insured value, and there is still some money left for repairs, so I'll just have to hope that the eventual extraction and relaunch doesn't result in serious damage. Meantime Olof has been telling me of other boats that got stranded here - an American ketch that landed up to the West of my position, and a Canadian sloop that was much nearer the village. Not a lot of comfort there - they both ended up as wrecks!
On Friday, 24th the wind swung round to East, getting up to Force 6, and forcing another full evacuation to Base Camp. Put on the mainsail cover; taking the main off would have been better but it would have made life in the cabin quite impossible. HW at 1010 was piling up the sand under the stern so that the prop and keel were almost entirely covered. The rudder top, still hard over to port, was deflecting the last of the wash from waves on that side so that the water crossed itself and did not run round under the transom. No movement from the boat, so Salvador was quite right. 'Phone my credit card people to arrange an increase in credit limit, in case I have to pay the salvage bills that way. They seem remarkably reluctant and it takes 37 minutes at international mobile rates to get them to finally agree, and then only for a very limited period. Back ashore for lunch, then go back aboard to hide from the sun with the forehatch open to reduce the heat. When I re-emerge at 1800 it is to find that my Crocs have been stolen! Only loss from the boat so far. Olof arrives soon after and gives me an hour's shopping and internet time. I take the netbook and pick up fresh bread and soft drinks at the supermercado then continue to the Mini Golf Café. There the barman denies that they have WiFi (although Olof had used it himself) and when I open up the computer it is to find that the battery has run itself down to 6% anyway. Of course, since I had closed it up fully charged, I hadn't brought the mains charger... Return to boat only 1 beer the better to find that Olof's sandal soles are disintegrating - Not A Good Day so far then. The wind doesn't reduce much in the evening, so take out the bags again at 2100, and have just sat down when my Greek baseball cap is whipped off and disappears before I can turn round to see where it went. Determined not to lose that too, I have to search for 20 minutes before finding it on top of a dune. Fortunately there is no-one else about (or indeed for the rest of the night).
The wind continued on Saturday, 25th and although I originally thought that the tide would be slight enough for evacuation of the valuables to Base Camp to be unnecessary, a few good waves soon had me at it again at 0955! Fortunately there proved to be no need and noon saw it all back aboard again. Understandably fewer people about today, but Olof came at 1300 in new sandals for himself and with a pair of Beppis (pseudo-Crocs but better of their sort) for me. He didn't stay, having done this Good Deed for the day. I mostly hid inside out of both wind and sun. The sea was washing-in quantities of sand and we were now buried up to the keel joint to port, solidly underneath the hull, and to the toe-rail to starboard. This seemed to ease the stresses inside. At 1830 Incarni, a particularly beautiful lass from Conil, brought me a big bag of fruit and even a lump of cake, God bless her! Since I had just eaten the last of my fruit that morning, this was well-timed indeed. Stayed aboard for the evening tide and even managed to fall asleep during it.
Sunday, 26th was a better day with less wind and I ventured out soon after the sun had hazily risen over the hill and took a few pictures. Various visitors including a British family. Olof arrived about 1045 and gave me a spell "ashore" until noon. This time I went to the nearest café place, and had WiFi plus mains electricity to charge up my netbook plus cool beer. Got my eMail but not the weather as the system insisted on doing 11 Microsoft updates and then a reset without the option.... For the afternoon generally hid inside while acting as unpaid backdrop for a lot of holiday snaps but did open out the duvet to dry out on the hot sand at Base Camp. Temperature in the cabin's shade was only 30ºC today - just about right for a bit of bum-browning later on. A sunset sweep of the shore yields 3 fish net buoys - the story is that these, if taken to the head office of the tuna-netters in Barbate, get €20 each. (By the end of my sojourn here I had got 7, but had to abandon them during the launch, so never got to find out the truth of this matter.)
Monday, 27th - woke at 0805 after a good night; crashed my right heel against my left big toe while drawing my legs up and broke the nail away. Fortunately little blood lost and a roll of sticking plaster was close to hand having been left by some kind person unknown, so it was soon used to tape the nail tightly back to prevent sand from getting in. Fortunately this worked, with periodic changes. Tidied up the anchoring arrangements so that they were ready for possible use during the relaunch process. 8 horses (with riders) and the beach- and bin-cleaning squad are amongst my passers-by this morning. In the afternoon carry out a carefully co-ordinated operation to a) dry out the duvet stowage, b) go to Base Camp and have a shave and c) bum-brown for an hour and d) take the now well-toasted duvet back aboard after a thorough shake. Olof arrives just after I've dined, with good news of the weather for tomorrow but there are film-makers' lorries parked inside the gate to the Natural Park which might obstruct "our" low-loader if such arrives in the morning. 'Phone Salvador to let him know about them, but he says he knows and will be here at 10 a.m. "That seems a bit late", think I...
Tuesday, 28th at last! Olof arrives at 0905 and wants the boat launched right away! It's certainly the best morning we've had since getting here; calm, a bit hazy, little swell. Our sand bank has now nearly covered the rudder as well - just hope we can still get to operate the thing once it's out of the sand. Prompt to a fault, Salvador beams down to just ahead of our bows at 1000, later joined more obviously by Vito, the crane man. Measurements are taken. The crane will be arriving at 0700 tomorrow. All depart about 1100, leaving a slightly bewildered pair of oldies. Since nothing is happening Olof goes to get his hair cut today, instead of tomorrow as originally intended. Just after noon a man on a trials bike offers assistance and duly fetches me some bread and beer - his name is Xavier (however spelt). He also offers to go to make enquiries about the dinghy in Barbate. 1300 set up parasol and take the bags ashore, just in case, but as heretofore no need and portage them back at 1515. Glad this won't be going on for much longer! With the now-increasing height of tide the sand has started to reduce and the toe-rail is now clear again, just. Several more English-speaking visitors this afternoon, while I sunbathe. Eventually stow parasol properly (it has been permanently ashore for over a week) and shift wanted part of Base Camp in stages aboard, then dump the rest appropriately. Take in the log impeller as a precaution too and turn in. It is nice and calm all night, so no need to do a shore watch at high tide. We're as ready as we can be.

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Caños de la Meca to Barbate - Wednesday, 29th June 2011 - Data
This is the day when I find out whether I still have a boat or an insurance write-off.... I woke to the sound of crawler tracks coming along the beach from the direction of the village, which was a good start as it was 0630 and still dark and calm. My earlier enquiries as to what sort of "crane" would be moving us had been a bit beyond Salvador's linguistic capabilities, nor could anyone produce a picture, but now it revealed itself as one of the larger Komatsu diggers - on tracks and turntable, of course, with a vast bucket fitted and a smaller one in reserve. (I hope when I have got on top of the technology to include a file on this website of photos taken by myself and Salvador showing most of the stages in the operation, but for now you will just have to take my words for it.) Soon it arrived along with a small squad of men from Vejer or Conil and immediately took some massive skelps out of the sand banked to port. Then with archaeological care the boat was revealed by dusting the remaining sand by hand down into the hole, while Salvador was getting out a collection of strops - all spit new and in their shrink wrappers - and massive, galvanised shackles in a comparable state of virginity. Clearly some cash had been invested in advance of this operation, so my confidence was rising by the minute. To get the strops under the boat was easy at the bows, but at the forward end of the cockpit we needed a tunnel underneath and that was the next little job for the digger, after which the tunnel was opened up by poking a rod and spade through the remainder, while the digger took its bucket off. Salvador had also invested in some steel sections for use as spreader bars with reinforcing rods spot welded on to act as cleats for the strops. In this case the lengths he had allowed were a bit too generous. After much debate the strops were finally tied round the sections closer in and threaded through each other and the digger's jib-end swivel eye. When the strain came on for a trial lift, the forward spreader bent under compression and much slippage of strops ensued. I could see that the bars posed a considerable threat to the lifelines, cabin top and instrument cowling. So to speed matters up I pointed out to Salvador that the boat was quite strong enough round about to take lifting strains itself without any spreader bars, and they were dispensed with. The resulting reconstruction of the cat's cradle had the unfortunate effect of spreading black swivel grease generously over nearly all of the strops and the gang members, together with a spray of oil from the hydraulics, but we weren't going to let a little thing like that stop us!
Olof had appeared from an early stage and opined that the weight would be too much for the Komatsu's outer jib, but it stood up to the challenge without visible tremor and, after some minor adjustments to the strops, we had lift-off. It was now 0935 and we all set off along the beach to a point selected by Olof swimming a few days earlier. 0943 - a loud snap and the whole load dropped about 4 feet. The keel speared into the sand and the rudder and skeg dug in a few inches also. Spearhead thought about it for a few seconds and then started to tilt over towards the digger. People scattered. For those in doubt about her charm with luck, she went over a few degrees, then the backstay caught on the end of the jib and arrested her progress. We all breathed again. The brilliant digger driver manoeuvred the boat, keeping the 6mm backstay in what must have been for him a totally invisible small notch at the extremity of his jib, back down comfortably on her beam ends again and we took stock. "No damage at all", said Olof, "the keel's still unmoved on its joint". The strop that had been taking the load, doubled through the swivel eye, had been cut by the right-angled edge, and although there were two spare strops no-one considered for a moment trying them again. A pick-up was despatched post haste to Barbate for some chain and returned in a remarkably short time. With that in place there were no more problems and we moved along to the selected launching point.
Our progress had been better than anticipated, so there was now a wait for the tide to rise sufficiently. A local boat that launched from a road trailer beside us had very kindly taken out the anchor on the conjoined length of our two biggest warps and dropped it on the sandiest-looking patch. Olof was keen to pull out on it, but Vito wouldn't let us go - what we were waiting for, of course, was Salvador who had disappeared back to Barbate to get his boat. Provision had been made for two boats in the planning - Salvador's own for going close inshore and another, much bigger, to pull him out from deeper water should difficulties arise. Since conditions were well-nigh perfect, now with a Force 3 offshore breeze, he was able to cancel the big boat (and save himself a good whack of money), but it still took an hour to bring his launch from the harbour. High Water was predicted for 1438, but we had enough water for a launching at noon precisely, by which time he had arrived and picked up the anchor with his diver. I was given a leg-up to board at the stern and went to the bow to do what was needed with our end of the warp. The digger swung round on its tracks and headed into the sea, then lowered away. There were some warning shouts, but what about I did not immediately discover. The diver had swum ashore with two big pink floats and they had to be tied together either side of the keel to give us an extra safety margin of buoyancy. Then finally we were afloat, after a fashion, and what a relief! I cast off the shackles on the strops on one side for the digger to lift them away, but this didn't seem to work and it took further assistance to get them cleared (one wet labourer, who left his shirt aboard!). I then found that my alloy Sea-Me mast on the starboard quarter had been snapped at the top of the pushpit and was lying across the stern, held by the electrical cables inside. It had apparently made contact with the jib of the digger when the boat swung - nothing to be done about it, but apart from the grime it was the only breakage resulting from the whole operation.
After that it was all fairly routine stuff. I tried the engine and it started as usual but was soon off again as a tow to Barbate was all part of the service. We went out to the centre of the bay and there cut free the buoys, which were taken aboard the launch, then resumed and all I had to do was to try to follow the boat in front, which was pulling us at a bit over 6 knots. Sundry mobile 'phone calls were made, chief amongst them to the insurers. In an hour and a quarter we were in the harbour and soon manoeuvring to get alongside the arrivals pontoon. Everyone as pleased as Punch for obvious reasons. Booked for the boat to be lifted out the following morning then, hearing that it would not be permitted for me to continue to live aboard once we were on the hard, postponed that until my flight home was booked and I had a marine surveyor appointed. Extremely grateful for the accomodating weather today - without that, many things could have gone wrong and we could have even been into a two or three day struggle...... As it was, we did have some "moments" but at least got out in one piece, the first known boat to do so from there.
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Local friends' sail - Friday, 26th August 2011 - Data
José and Martine had evinced a hope to go for a sail in Spearhead and, of course, I was delighted - and it served as a little test after all that has happened. They wanted to see Cabo Trafalgar from the other side, as it is one of their usual walks from Caños and I said it would take four hours with a reasonable wind. In fact it was a beautiful day with a Force 4 northwesterly, good visibility and bright sun. We left at 1247, motored out of the harbour and, with the Tillerpilot steering us windward, put up the mainsail except for the last 3 rolls, then bore away to closehauled and unrolled the genoa. Since it was doing quite well, the TP was left very much in charge - I had overlooked mounting the Hydrovane's rudder, so it was not available or needed - and took us between four tacks at a good speed, so that we were off our target in two and a half hours. We turned around in the chop that, I was told, always lies off here and ran and reached back, eating as we went. (José had been worried that they would miss their Spanish meal time when I proposed that they come at noon!) In 4 hours precisely we were manoeuvring to get back onto the pontoon. Martine said I had passed my exam... The boat didn't do too badly either!

Barbate to Lagos - Wednesday, 31st August to Thursday 1st September 2011 - Data
The major point of interest in this sail was the state of the leak in the drip-free, water-lubricated, propshaft gland that was found to have developed when we were re-launched from the yard. While unlikely to sink the ship - at its worst it just about filled the bilge sump in 24 hours - its nuisance potential was considerable. After eMail correspondence with the most helpful British agents, we needed to know if it would settle down in proper use or have to be replaced. A couple of days of southwesterly breeze were predicted, so the chance was seized to head NW towards Cape St Vincent, with the probability that we would go into Lagos to update on the weather situation before the next bit towards Lisbon. We set off from the marina office pontoon at 0938 and a lack of wind enforced motoring and I kept this up a bit longer than might otherwise have been the case - for 4 hours. When I stopped the engine, I took a look below and found the shaft was still turning - the prop hadn't feathered, although I had greased it before relaunch. So I tried the effect of 10 seconds in reverse - much foam astern going at 5 knots - looked again and the prop was still turning the shaft, but the other way. So the blades were still stiff... With engine now stopped again, I stuck it in forward gear and motion ceased. But the drips continued. Meanwhile the full main had been hoisted, followed by the full genoa and we continued on the one port tack all the way to the harbour entrance at Lagos, a distance of some 120 miles. Of course, it wasn't quite that easy, all day and all night, as the wind varied several times an hour and about 20 degrees either side of the average. But Cap'n Vane took care of much of it and I only had to adjust him about 25 times! From Wednesday afternoon onwards there were shower clouds about and even the odd flash of lightning was seen, so my "new" set of Henri Lloyds (got as an offer in Almerimar but never yet worn) had to be inaugurated, but all in all it was quite a pleasant sail at a reasonably high speed. Not a lot of shipping about, although the Sea-Me usually had a few "in sight". Approaching Lagos, I had another check below - the drips were reduced and when put out of gear the propshaft did not start rotating again, so the propeller blades were back in their proper feathered position again. We were in the harbour entrance at a few minutes before 3 p.m. (now Portuguese time which is the same as British, instead of CEST) and, formalities completed, in our berth just before another nasty shower came on at 1600.
A good start made there......
See Lagos on Google Maps

Lagos to Cascais - Saturday & Sunday, 3-4th September 2011 - Data
Keeping a close watch on the weather gribs, I spotted that the northerlies which had set in shortly after our arrival would be modified by a little bulge in pressure between here and Lisbon over the weekend. Although the wind would reduce during the night, it should be more westerly until the Sunday afternoon, when a fresh blast would arrive from the north. So with some misgivings over going to sea on such slim evidence, I went early to the Pingo Doce (supermarket) and stocked up, prepared for sea as usual, booked out, then remembered that I had intended to fit a clamp to the pump intake pipe to prevent it from rubbing on the propshaft coupling, so did that too and was nicely ready for a bridge opening at 1100. Once out of the harbour mouth, there was not a lot of wind - what there was was NW - so kept motoring while putting up the main. Off Ponta Piedade at 1130 I set course for Sagres (249°) with the light air now in the opposite direction, i.e: SE 2 but it soon went SW 3, so we kept motoring, while I indulged in beer and strawberries to keep up my intake of liquid and vitamins. The sun shone betwixt nicely separated Cumulus clouds - very pleasant. I had switched to bread and cheese when, at 1227, the wind suddenly veered back to WNW near Burgau and slowly increased, so that I was able to set the genoa and switch off the engine, then bring Cap'n Vane into play as the wind began to back slowly again until it was on the nose and a tack became necessary. From there it took several tacks in variable conditions before I was able to dip my ensign to Saint Vincent close off his very powerful lighthouse, cliffs and caverns at 1622. So far, so good.
Outside there was a discombobulated chop and the wind was probably being lifted off of us by the cliffs, so going was very slow for a while and we couldn't lay the course for Cabo Espichel, 85 miles away, but I persisted and things slowly improved to something more like the forecast. However we were rarely doing as much as 4 knots and when the wind started to reduce for the evening at 1900 it was time to call for the mechanical assistance. I put the Yanmar on at 2000 revs and found that, without adjusting sails or self-steering, we continued close to course and at 4½ knots. The sun set at 2002 - we were now at 9° 01' West and, having the place to ourselves, continued to masquerade as a very speedy sailing boat into the night. There are now a lot of windfarms along this coast and a host of red winking lights appeared to warn of their presence. Cape St Vincent light has a range of 32 nautical miles but even after it was below the horizon the lights of the windfarms nearest to it could still be easily distinguished - they are of course higher up. The log's paddlewheel had started to play up a little earlier in the day, showing occasional, non-existent lapses in speed but at 2305 I had to go below, shift around all the luggage and fridge and grope around in the locker underneath in order to restart it. According to the GPS it had lost 6.7 miles in this way. Then the wind stopped almost altogether, so it was back to the TP10 in place of the Hydrovane. After midnight the weight of the genoa was too much for the wind to hold it out above the glassy sea, so I rolled in 5 turns so that I could see better beneath it. Then we had a short visitation of dolphins, but they clearly found us boring, even with the engine assistance. Between 0230 and 0615 it was mostly cloudy (and dewy) but then it came on to drizzle in the murk and the wind freshened and veered. That gave me a bit of fun and games - getting into the Henri Lloyds and back to near-full sail, the engine and fridge off and Hydrovane in place of TillerPilot. The best we could point was inland to Sesimbra or. worse still, Setubal. I was even tricked into reefing the main for a short time at one stage.
At 0950 I heard a plopping noise astern and looked and there was a juvenile member of the gannet family (exact species not known) sitting on the water close-up to the stern and looking slightly rueful. As I watched to see what he was doing there he drifted astern, then took off and flew right back, zoomed up over my backstay, wheeled round and dived for a fish that he thought he saw almost between the ensign staff (which is now on the port quarter) and Cap'n Vane. He came up a couple of seconds later fishless, eyed me engagingly, drifted back maybe 40 metres, then repeated the performance. Obviously he thought he could see fish in the turbulence of the wake, but it took 20 minutes of repeated vain attempts before he finally got bored with, or tired of, this game and went off to other pursuits. He tried several different angles of dive between our stern impedimenta, or just behind it, but it was the "Aw, shucks!" expression on his face every time he came up that amused me - and embarassed him even further.
By noon we were plugging along on pretty much a dead beat, although the tacks were hours long, rather than miles. The wind was Force 4 to 5 and, after logging our position, I tacked for one more leg that should take us to a waypoint off Cabo Espichel, the prominent headland south of the Tagus estuary. However, the wind obligingly backed a few degrees, with the result that we actually passed some 3 miles to the West of the waypoint at 1538 and we held on into the estuary until I found we were running into the sands around the islet/fort of Bugio and we tacked parallel to the other shore and held on until close to Cascais. There we arrived in Force 5 at 2000 precisely and were most kindly met even though the office was shut. Booking in properly the following day, I was given a "Welcome" bottle of a local vintage - and very good it was, too. Cascais is an unusual marina, almost everything works, even the security keycards and the WiFi! No doubt it will cost when the accounting comes, which may be Friday if the current forecast is correct....
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Cascais to Cascais - Friday, 9th September 2011 - Data
Not a lot to be said about this! Fuelled up, booked out and departed at 1343 in sunshine after a misty morning. Got 4 miles and we were in dense mist again and the wind was on the nose (not as forecast). There was no way of knowing how far these conditions extended - turned round and went reluctantly back - arriving 1525 on the reception pontoon. Talking about it with a boat that had just preceded us in, they said the mist had been with them all the way from Peniche - but they had radar and multiple crew and the wind behind....

Cascais to Nazaré - Saturday, 10th September 2011 - Data
The second attempt was more successful, but entirely due to the Yanmar, which was kept running at 2600 rpm throughout, with occasional help from the mainsail if the wind was in a suitable direction and strength - usually we were going faster than the wind was. We left rather earlier than yesterday because we'd already practised it and didn't need to go to the fuelling berth again, although the day was dull and wind zero. In fact, I had to put on my baseball cap before we had even got to Guia (3 miles) in order to try to keep my specs free of the drizzle which came on thereabouts. Visibility was not good, but workable, so we ploughed on, wondering if we were wasting our time and fuel yet again. A little breeze appeared off Cabo Raso, so the main went up there. Not a lot happened thereafter, but interest was maintained by the appearance astern of another yacht from Cascais, doing exactly the same as us but not gaining any ground, although larger. After Cabo da Roca it got a bit clearer and I spotted another yacht further offshore, presumably on a longer passage from the south, and it also kept station for a long time before finally finding a bit more wind than us and drawing ahead. By 1400 we were at last emerging from under the cloud into blue skies, but the sea remained obstinately glassy and the main was now contributing very little. We passed Cabo Carvoeiro at 1735: normally the thing to do would be to go into Peniche at this time of day, but I was determined to reach Nazaré, 22 miles further, as I had been given a letter back in early June before leaving Almerimar addressed to Captain Mike Hadley the Harbourmaster at Nazaré. What with all our diversions and delays en route it was now high time it was delivered and Spearhead's temporary designation as a "Mail Ship" discharged. So we motored on - the diesel holding out well - and finally found our way into the harbour entrance at 2158. Then we made our way into the far right-hand corner, where the visiting yachts go, and located a berth on the pontoon. However I made a right hash of turning into it, after stopping to rig fenders and warps ready, and had to be assisted by the owners of the ketch that my stern gear was nearly caught up in and Mike Hadley himself.... Oh well! it ended well and no scrapes detected. For those remembering we have a prop shaft leak - we still do, but it was only giving a drip every 10 seconds when I checked while we were motoring, and it reduces to zero when the shaft is static, as in port. Who knows, by the time we get back to somewhere where it can be dealt with, it may not need replacing after all.
See Nazaré on Google Maps

Nazaré to Leixoes - Friday & Saturday, 16-17th September 2011 - Data
I had meant to leave on Thursday when the weather forecast would be better, but found when I went to see Mike that he had not long received a warning of heavy swell already coming over the sea-wall at Cascais and thought to be the result of a hurricane. Now my boat floats just as well on a big swell as a little one, so I was not initially much concerned, but then the thought arose that the next harbours up (Figueira da Foz and Aveiro) having shallow entrances could possibly be closed by such conditions... So I bided my time and investigated a mysterious loss of water from the starboard bag-tank, which would not be finished until just after the office closed for the day, thus preventing my departure in the evening instead. So it came to pass that we finally paid up, paid our respects, fuelled up and left on Friday with a forecast that was only just about workable. Initially there was a lot more swell than wind (it should have been SW veering W) so we motored with the mainsail up after a valiant trial with the genoa too. There being no point in waiting about for worse conditions to come we just got on with it and headed up the coast in dull and sunless weather. It did clear up about 1830 and we arrived off Figueira entrance well after dark, by which time I was kitted up with the big waterproofs in anticipation of splashes arriving in the cockpit. The swell was coming from quite well off the port bow, but now it was increasing and we would have to head up another 10 degrees for the next bit. Also I needed to keep fairly close to the shore - most people know that there is a strong current from the north off the Portuguese West Coast, but it is not so well known that this induces a weaker counter-current close to the shore (i.e. within 3 miles) - and I wished to take advantage of this. However, it is shallow for quite a long way out, so the waves tend to pile up, and they did. After earlier experiences, I was keeping a check on the fuel consumption and found it was getting heavy in the early hours of Saturday morning. So I put in the contents of the spare can before any worse conditions arrived and was promptly sick. However, being close to shore, there was no chance of resting inside and I just made the best of it in the cockpit. Fortunately there was little about except fishing marker floats and the only thing to pass was a sort of rig, whose purpose I couldn't make out. After 70 (nautical) miles we passed the entrance to Aveiro: I had been tempted to go in, but reckoned that without directions to hand and in the dark it would be chancing my arm a bit too much. No more groundings for this trip! So it was a long leg onwards to Leixoes and estimations were that there wasn't enough diesel to get us there without some sailing being done. At least the wind was now matching the waves, so the genoa was unrolled - mostly - and the Yanmar given a rest and we tacked our way up the coast, getting a good lift along the shore in the more urban area south of Porto. Another hitch out and back saw us just downwind of the entrance to the harbour, with the wind now somewhere in the region of Force 6-7 so, being already in the shelter of the breakwater, I furled the genoa, started the motor, put on the Tiller Pilot, dropped the main and arrived on the Reception Pontoon at 1840, just 10 minutes after the office had closed..... The wind was howling in the rigging but I was invited for a coffee aboard "Reveller" (Tony & Alison) which did much to restore my somewhat deprived tissues - with a beef curry later!
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Leixoes to Povoa de Varzim - Monday, 19th September 2011 - Data
I feel like a proper fraud saying so, but this was another motorsail direct to windward and, having been delayed in starting anyway, I found that we were going too slowly to make our declared destination of Viana do Castelo by any reasonable time. So in we came and, on checking, found that the connections to the airport were much simpler from here (by Metro) than they would be from Viana. The weather was good, and the wind increased from F2 when we started to F5 by arrival - otherwise uneventful. The marina people here are unusually friendly and even give out invitations to a free drink at the local sailing club (shut on Mondays!).
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Povoa de Varzim to Viana do Castelo - Sunday, 9th October 2011 - Data
We were allowed a short burst of easterly winds this morning, so took advantage of that until it failed at noon, then motored the rest of the way yet again. At least it was sunny and clear, becoming moderate NxW later on, by which time we were almost there. Met by a fleet of 12 Optimists at the entrance, and then found that there have been a few changes made to the place since I was last here in 2002, not least that entrance to the yacht dock is now blocked by a swing bridge for pedestrians. There has been a lot of new building as well, obscuring what used to be an elegant waterfront. Never mind - the forecast for tomorrow is pretty similar to today's, so we won't be here long.....
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Viana to Bayona - Monday, 10th October 2011 - Data
It was a lovely calm morning, with heat forecast for the early afternoon, so I went for a stroll over the bridge (designed by Gustav Eiffel in 1878) which has a road on top and a railway underneath. As tends to happen with my strolls, it expanded to include the (Cabedelo) beach, so it wasn't until 1515 that the swing-bridge was opened for us, but at least this meant that we had the ebb under us to wash us down the mile or so of river. Once outside, it was clearly a case of motor-sailing to windward in Force 2, and we continued thus all the way to Bayona. No spray on the decks at all. A big black and white dolphin met us about the Spanish border, as I was changing the courtesy flags, and stayed about 20 minutes while I was thus occupied and having thus checked that we were fully compliant, off he went. The next time I looked out there were several black, grey and white dolphins there in his place and they stayed with us right the way to the mouth of the ria, i.e: about 4 hours, whether I was on deck or not. Also saw several yachts heading south and have met more in the marina here, including one with Jon and Milly Fitzgerald aboard. Clearly I am the odd-ball, going the wrong way........
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Bayona to Camariñas - Wednesday and Thursday, 12-13th October 2011 - Data
There being some 70 miles between these two places, there is little likelihood of being able to do it in the one day. So I left Bayona after one, official night (although I had actually had two "in bed", they only charged me for one as we had arrived after midnight) about 1230 and motored gently around to the Islas Cies and there anchored for 3 hours to enjoy the sun from the cockpit. For a midweek afternoon well into October, the place was surprisingly busy - the beach was well filled, especially at the north end, there were 3 fast catamaran ferries running and there must have been at least 40 sailing yachts distributed between the two best bays: then there were the motor boats! When we resumed, it was to find that the apparent headwind exactly equalled our speed, so I settled on 5 knots and set course for a waypoint off Corrubedo that took us outside the remaining islands. On the way there a big cheese moon arose just before sunset, then I was able to check that the lighthouse on Isla Ons was started up appropriately and wondered if it was still the same keeper as when I was there in 2002. At Corrubedo we seemed to lose half a knot for a while, perhaps it was a streak of current, but turned slightly right to head for Finisterre, where we arrived at 0300 (still using BST) without incident, but passing inshore of a gaggle of very brightly lit, apparently static rigs. After passing the Finisterre waypoint I spotted a ghosting yacht going in the opposite direction but had a family of dolphins going north with me. There were also some fishing boats sporting continuous yellow strobe lights; perhaps in this exposed corner to frighten off big ships. Whether frightened or not, there was nothing I could do about them, because they were all going faster than us! After passing Cabo Toriñana, we were able to head into the Ria of Camariñas and pick up the narrow white beam of the sectored light at Punta de Lago. Then, just when it was the moment to turn north towards the pier head, the engine died from lack of fuel..... So that's as far as a (nearly) full tank of diesel will get us at 5 knots - at least, having been in this situation once before, I knew it was nothing to get alarmed about (......... yet) and here we were in an enclosed ria on a calm night and it didn't take long to get out the spare can and transfer its contents to the main tank. Application of the starter soon got it running, initially rather reluctantly, then the air bubbles were mysteriously and miraculously cleared and we could motor in with the dawn to moor on the pontoon at 0715. Later on I was knocked up by the marinero and filled in his form (except as to duration of stay) and got more diesel so that we could carry on as soon as possible. However, when I was eventually able to get online for the latest weather prognostications, it was to find that the high pressure system which we had been enjoying for ages had begun to move off and, had I carried on, we would have run into gales south of Ireland in a few days. So, in the meantime, here we sits and waits and makes the best of things!
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Camariñas to A Coruña - Thursday, 24th November 2011 - Data
When it became apparent that crossing Biscay was not going to be a realistic option this month, and bearing in mind that those lovely people the boat's underwriters wanted her out of the water by 1st December for a full survey before they would cover her for next season, an alternative scenario has had to be devised. Enquiry has revealed that it's not practicable to lay-up in Camariñas and it's also well out of the way for getting a surveyor to come to, so attention is being turned to the Corunna district. It used to be that all I knew about the place was contained in the poem about the burial of Sir John Moore (and yes, he's still here and the spot well marked, complete with said pome) but I've been finding out a lot more just recently. You can even fly to Heathrow from here, but that seems to be the only UK place served. So it came to be that, after another little storm (this time from the NorthWest) that managed to blow my windicator from the masthead in port, we set off before sunrise and motored all the way here, arriving rather after the evening gloaming. The weather was fine, just rather lacking in wind and, although I did set the main up when it looked like there might be a Force 2 easterly, it did very little to aid our progress and was rolled down again after a couple of hours' airing. Despite the calm, there was the usual big swell from the NW, and this rather reduced the amount that could be seen of the coast, due to the spray fog rising. The sun shone through a thin layer of cirrus swirls, so not very warmly - in deference to the heavy dew when we left I had put on my Henry Lloyd Ocean chest-high trousers and there was never any reason to take them off until we had arrived. I seemed to be the only yacht going N but passed 5 going the other way. My main concern was the engine, which never missed a beat, because when I started it the electronic digits failed to show how many hours it had done and there was a patch of condensation inside the "glass". Later on I spotted that the pointer for the revs had shot round and was vibrating against its top stop... The hours had returned for a time but had now disappeared again and on checking for the passage's statistics since, I find that nearly six hours have been lost from the gauge's record. Oh dear, I hope it can be satisfactorily dried out. Obviously the wind and really heavy rains in Camariñas are to blame but the next fitting-out looks to be a busy one.... On previous passages along this Costa da Morte the sea has contrived to pinch something or other from off the boat, but on this occasion we seem to have escaped lightly and only lost some time off the clock!
See Coruña on Google Maps