2003 May -
The famous ‘pillars’, Jebel Musa and Jebel Tariq, mark the eastern entry to the Gibraltar Straits, ‘Gibraltar’ being the English version of the Arabic for ‘Tariq’s Mountain’. The Straits, and their unique weather patterns seemed to be at the heart of our early summer cruise, which covered 571.5 miles.
For most of the 7½ weeks we were out and about on Kabardar the crew consisted of just Kathleen and myself. Our daughter Katie and her boyfriend Derek joined us in Seville for one week.
We travelled out to Lagos on 13 May, and after finishing various exciting tasks such as re-
Sun 18 May / Mon 19 May
In almost flat calm conditions we motored the 70 miles to Villa Real de Santo Antonio with an overnight stop at anchor just outside the entry to the Faro / Ohlao channel. As this was the beginning of the new season, predictably enough something did not work. The radar was unable to ‘see’ anything other than a large steel vessel less than ¼ mile away and the auto-
We arrived at the Santo Antonio marina at about 1500, not ideal as this was at half flood and the reception pontoon is in the main stream of the estuary. However all was well as the marineros were on the look out for arrivals and took our lines to enable us to fit into a rather small alongside berth.
Tues 20 / Wed 21 May
These two days were spent shopping, lazing in the sunshine and visiting the picturesque town of Tavira by the local bus service.
Thurs 22 / Fri 23 May
In mostly very light S or SE winds we covered the 68.5 miles from S Antonio to Chipiona with an overnight stop at Mazagon. This was mostly under engine but with a good sail as we approached the Guadalquivir fairway buoy. We were beginning to feel rather hard done by in the wind department and fed up with the sound of the engine.
Sat 24 / Sun 25 May
We explored the seaside resort town of Chipiona and nearby Sanlucar de Barrameda, which is the home of Manzanilla sherry. In Sanlucar we saw preparations for the ‘Feria de Manzanilla’ that was to take place a few days later. A major road had been closed and a 1km length of brightly painted stalls plus a ceremonial arch had been built. Most of the stalls were concerned with eating and drinking and it seems that during the fiesta an amazing quantity of sherry is consumed.
Mon 26 May
We left Chipiona at around 1100 and, keen to be sailing, unfurled the sails very soon after leaving the marina. This was a bad move as it seemed to frighten the 10kt SW breeze into a 5kt or less westerly, so after a decent period of drifting along at 2 kt, we motored the rest of the 20 miles round into Cadiz Bay and on to Puerto Sherry. We had chosen this port of call because it seemed to have the best range of boat repair services in the area and we wanted to get the auto-
Tues 27 May
We found an electronics engineering firm to check out and if possible repair the autohelm, and a sail maker willing to modify the canvas sheet. The radar, being a brand mainly sold in the USA, long since discontinued and unknown in Spain was unlikely to be repairable locally. The electronics specialist did not speak any English and my Spanish is not up to describing the symptoms of sick electronic equipment. So we had to use French, our only common language.
We walked the 2km from Puerto Sherry to Puerto Santa Maria and went to look at the Club Nautico marina. As this was much better located, we decided to move the boat there the following day and to use this club marina as a base for visits to Jerez and Cadiz. However, during the day it became very windy with the Levante, which is a strong easterly, quickly building and we were not going anywhere. It seemed strange to have gale force winds with a clear blue sky and 30° deg. temperatures.
Wed 28 May
The auto helm repair was promised for 1000 Thursday and the cover sheet for Friday. The Levante was blowing in the Cadiz area at F6-
Thurs 29 / Fri 30 May
The allegedly repaired auto helm was still not working correctly so we left the problem with the engineer and arranged to collect the drive and control unit from him when we returned to the area for our trip up the river to Seville. The Levanter was still blowing hard so we went to Jerez on the train and because the forecasts were predicting a return of westerlies, we planned our escape from Puerto Sherry for the Saturday.
Sat 31 May
With a forecast of SW 2 or 3 we left Puerto Sherry at 0950 but found very little actual wind so once again we motored, motor-
Sun 1 June
Our main sources of weather forecasts had been Worldspace satellite digital radio, which broadcasts the French Meteo and WCS predictions, plus the hourly broadcasts by Tarifa Radio. Encouraged by unanimous predictions for the Straits for W3/4 with W5/6 off Tarifa we left Barbate at 0830. We had a memorable sail with the boat charging along dead downwind at well ahead of our expected speed. This brought us into the Straits a good hour early which ruined our passage plan and left us pushing a foul tide round Tarifa. This was by far our best sail of the season so far and very good for morale after so much motoring. We arrived at Waterport in Gibraltar at 1500 having covered 39 miles. Sheppard’s marina was full but we found a berth at Marina Bay. This has a reputation for surge but we concluded that those who have made these comments have not encountered too many Spanish or Portuguese marinas complete with fishing fleets. The gentle rocking here was no problem compared to the frantic leaping resulting from fishing boats passing at 0400!
I was ‘ticked off’ over the VHF by the Marina Bay office for forgetting to take down our Spanish courtesy flag. I am sure that the Gibraltar authorities have a particularly nasty punishment for this offence.
Mon 2 / Tues 3/ Wed 4 June
We went shopping and sightseeing ‘on the rock’ but found Gibraltar a somewhat strange place, which tries to be more British than Britain. Also, apart from spirits, tobacco and fuel, the place is expensive compared to Spain. There is a branch of Tesco very close to Marina Bay but with prices that would be most unwelcome in the UK.
We had planned to leave for Smir on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco on the Wednesday but visibility was poor and we did not fancy dodging across the busy Straits in the prevailing mist and fog patches.
Thurs 5 June
We left our berth at 1000 but it took until 1100 to get fuelled-
The marina at Smir was largely empty, the facilities excellent, the staff and port officials friendly and we had no problems with the entry formalities. The only drawback was that it was relatively expensive at €20 per day.
Fri 6 / Sat 7 June
On the Friday we visited the medina (old city) of Tetouan which has been declared a world heritage site. The following day we hired a taxi and driver for a trip to see the town of Chefchaouen and the driver suggested adding a visit to the famous berber Saturday souq (market) at Oued Lao. This was then followed by a drive up into the Rif mountains through the spectacular Lao gorge to Chefchaouen. This was very attractive but a bit dressed up for tourists. It was for a time very popular with hippies as a good deal of kif (marijuana) is grown in the surrounding mountains. The souk was amazing with many people in colourful berber costume buying and selling all manner of goods. There were several donkey / mule ‘parks’ for the numerous pack animals used by the mountain people to come to the market, and a row of farriers attending to the animals’ hooves.
Sun 8 June
We had planned to go 50 miles further south to the fishing port of El Jebba, but the Moroccan coast had been shrouded in mist and low cloud brought inshore by very light easterlies, all caused by a stubborn low over northern Morocco. As the forecasts did not offer much hope of this changing and we did not fancy motoring 50 miles each way, we decided to leave a visit to El Jebba until September and head back to the windier Straits.
Mon 9 June
Ceuta is almost pointedly Spanish and hence very similar to Gibraltar. It is however a very good place to stock up as food prices are much lower than those in Gibraltar.
Tues 10 June
We left Ceuta at 1200 local time to catch the tide through the straits, bound for Tangier. It is important to get the starting time right for a westwards passage through the Straits as the westbound tidal streams are weak and change direction later a few miles offshore.
To begin with there was little wind and rather poor visibility.
After about a hour things improved and we were soon sailing west with a E4 pushing us along in style, under genoa only. Later on it became quite boisterous with the now E5/6 wind against the incoming current plus tide. However after a bit of rolling we entered Tangier at 1530 local time having covered 30 miles. We had no small difficulty berthing as the only space available was on the end of a raft that was secured by some rather flimsy looking buoys. The Tangier Yacht Club’s boatman / watchman wanted us to berth stern first towards some rock armour but Kabardar has a dislike for steering when going astern and this was not helped by the squally wind. We ignored him and went in very gingerly bows first.
After we had tied up as securely as the situation allowed, inflated the dinghy and completed the port etc. paperwork, we commented that there was then nowhere for anyone else to berth. We were wrong, as a motor cruiser then squeezed in alongside us, thus putting even more strain on the buoy behind us. This boat was being delivered from Barcelona to Senegal and had an impressive array of jerry-
The officials that I had to deal with were friendly but I had to hand write and sign a statement that we did not have any arms, ammunition, drugs or immigrants/emigrants on board. We also had to deposit our passports and ship’s registration document with the port police.
Wed 11 June
We spent the day exploring Tangier but were disappointed by finding that the main museums that we had wanted to see were firmly shut. One was closed for restoration and the other because of electricity failure. However we found our way through the medina without any significant hassle and without a guide. We were grateful for a full water tank and all onboard facilities, including a shower and a holding tank for the heads.
Thurs 12 June
We had thought of leaving the boat at Tangier to make a trip inland to Fez but the makeshift nature of the moorings plus the renewed vigour of the E wind ruled this out. We had also considered going on down the Atlantic coast to Asilah but with an E7 and a swell prediction of up to 5m we decided against it. In good weather Asilah would have been OK but not with an unknown entry and a moderate swell. So we elected to stay put for the day and hope for a better forecast for Friday the 13th!
Getting believable forecasts was not easy as the WCS Marine forecast model had been consistently underestimating the wind strength, Meteo France were on strike, and Tarifa Navtex weather messages were only sent out erratically. Tarifa radio with bulletins every hour would have been the best but were only receiving them occasionally and weakly. The delivery crew tied up alongside us were becoming ever more despondent about the weather and were gloomily expecting to have to wait for several more days.
Fri 13 June
The day dawned with light winds so in spite of Tarifa predicting an E7 we set out northwards towards Barbate, accompanied by the motor cruiser, which was bound for Casablanca.
To begin with the wind was light and very variable but as we cleared the bay of Tangier the wind settled to an E5 and we reached N in great style, taking 4½ hours for the 26 miles to Barbate. The only Fri 13th problem was that the fuel gauge joined the list of electrical gear that was not working.
Sat 14 June
This was a housekeeping day to catch up with the washing and to remove the dust of Morocco, or rather that from the construction work going on in the port of Tangier.
Sun 15 June
We sailed the 42 miles from Barbate to El Puerto de Santa Maria in 8 hours with a largely favourable tide, having motored to Cape Trafalgar and then close hauled all the way to the bay of Cadiz. We noted some 10 or 12 yachts going east but only saw one other going west.
Tarifa MRCC were busy on VHF organising the rescue of an inflatable boat load of ‘immigrants’ with the help of the Portuguese navy who appeared to be unable to see the craft concerned in spite of the fact that the immigrants had called for help by mobile phone and reported that they could see a warship which they had correctly named.
We berthed at the Real Club Maritimo which offered very pleasant facilities with terrace, bar / restaurant, tennis courts and lots of good quality pontoon/finger berthing. The drawback to this marina, which is in the Rio Guadalete, is the full speed passing of the fishing boats and the ‘El Vapor’ ferry to Cadiz. It seemed that the 5 kt speed limit was only for foreigners and wimps!
Mon 16 / Tues 17 June
The electronics engineer had been unable to repair the Autohelm as it was 20+ years old and Raymarine seemed to be unable to provide him with the circuit diagrams. However, because he had not been able to repair it, he refused any payment for his time and efforts.
On the Tuesday, which was Kathleen’s birthday, we went over to Cadiz on ’El Vapor’ which is an elderly wooden motor ferry. Cadiz is an interesting and very old city with some 3000 years of history. Most of the old town consists of ‘well used’ 18th Century buildings. Dinner in the evening was at a very good but also very empty restaurant. The food and presentation were great but they could not accept plastic payments so I had to scoot to a nearby bank to avoid washing up duties.
We had another disturbed night thanks to the fishing fleet. Our Spanish pontoon neighbour agreed about the problem and insinuated that the crews were usually none too sober when setting out. I am sure that Hull’s trawler-
Wed 18 June
We left El Puerto de Santa Maria at 1200 with no wind at all, bound for Rota only about 8 miles away. We stopped about half way and I swam whilst the boat drifted and rolled gently in the swell. Waiting for the Rota marina office to open at 1600, I went to read the posted local forecasts. These were predicting a return of the Levanter for the next two days. (E9 in the Straits and up to SE7 for Cadiz plus a rough sea). As we needed to be at Chipiona by the 20th, we decided to skip Rota and push on to Chipiona which was only 16M further on. By this time a NE 3/4 had arrived and we ran down the coast to enter Chipiona. Marina at 1900 having covered 24M altogether..
Thurs 19 / Fri 20 June
The marina was affected for these two days by the water supply being cut in order to carry out repairs. This meant that the marina showers and toilets were out of action. Not ideal with 35° temperatures.
Sat 21 June
We left Chipiona at 1500 and sailed downwind up the Guadalquivir estuary to Bonanza to anchor for the night. We dropped the hook in 3m of water at 1700 after 10 miles. This anchorage is a beautiful and peaceful spot at the edge of the Donaña national park.
Sun 22 June
The anchor came up at 0645 and we set off up river, which was easy to navigate as we had bought the Seville pilot book which shows all the buoyage and shallow patches. This beautifully produced set of a pilot book plus 13 chartlets has the text in both Spanish and English. Having got the tide timing about right, we kept a favourable tide under us for the whole of the 42 miles to Seville. We arrived at the lock at 1230 but had to wait for 2 freighters to lock in before we were allowed in. As we then had to wait for the Las Delicias bridge opening at 2000, we tied up to a disused pier (ex-
Mon to Fri 23 -
Our time was spent exploring this famous city and using the excellent facilities of the Club Nautico, which include 3 swimming pools, one of which is full Olympic size.
Katie and Derek joined us on the Wednesday for a week and on the Friday the four of us made a day trip to Cordoba by train.
Sat 28 June
We left the club at 1945 for the bridge opening at 2000. It was necessary to wait until 2130 to get into the lock and this was with a worryingly large freighter. There was considerable swirl from its still turning propeller but after some quick work with boathooks we managed to squeeze down alongside it to the front of the lock. Having cleared the lock we motored a few miles downriver to La Puebla del Rio where the pilot book showed an anchorage. The anchor went down at 2230 and we passed a quiet and uneventful night. A total of 9 miles covered.
According to the pilot book, it is not a good idea to anchor in the river in Spring and Summer because of the mosquitoes. The English text merely says that they are horrible and nothing will shift them. However the Spanish text says that they are horrible and the only effective weapon against then is a repeating, sawn-
Sun 29 June
We left our anchorage an hour before high water at 0700 and motored downriver with an increasing run of tide with us. In fact we kept the tide either slack or with us for most of the 33 miles run down, reaching the river mouth at around 1300. The river and the Doñana park are famous for birds and we saw numerous herons, egrets and storks. Stork nests, of which we saw many in the riverbank trees, are untidy masses of twigs about a metre across.
We then reached and ran the remaining 25 miles to El Puerto de Sta Maria in a W3/4, arriving at 1800.
Mon 30 June
A relaxing day for Kathleen and myself whilst Katie and Derek went to Jerez by train.
Tues 1 July
We left the Club Nautico at 1130 and motored round into the bay between Puerto Sherry and Santa Maria and anchored up for swimming and lunch. This was followed by a sail across the bay towards Rota and finally over to Cadiz. We berthed at Puerto America at around 1600 having covered 13 miles. It took some time to get checked-
Wed 2 July
Kate & Derek set off for home and we left at 1130 for the final trip of our cruise back to Chipiona. The wind was straight in the teeth, and with a moderate sea, so we motored until beyond the pillar buoy off Rota . We were then able to fetch the Salmedina bank buoy off Chipiona and sailed up the Guadalquivir as far as Bonanza for another night in this excellent anchorage. We arrived at 1700 having covered 27 miles.
Thurs 3 / Fri 4 / Sat 5 July
The short run of 9 miles back to the marina did not take long and we then did the housekeeping and made preparations for the lift out the following day. We had established that it was substantially cheaper to lift the boat out and park it in the boatyard at Chipiona for the 8 weeks that we were to be back home in Beverley.
The lift out etc went without problems. The lift and move to storage area cost €115, and parking for 55 days came to €390. All in, with the lifts out and in, this came to €620 instead of €990 for the same period if in the water.
Saturday afternoon was spent on the beach and I was amused to note that the ‘locals’ were buying plastic glasses of sherry to drink on the beach.
Sun 6 July
Our second cruise of the 2003 season was to take us 1180M from Andalucia to Ostia near Rome where we had reserved a winter berth for Kabardar, our Contessa 38. We had heard about the newish Porto Touristico di Roma from another English couple that we met in El Puerto de Santa Maria in Andalucia, and Kathleen was able to negotiate a reasonable price for a 6 month winter contract, all done in Italian too!
This trip was a combination of covering the miles to Italy and an exploration of the islands strung out along our route.
For the whole of this trip the crew consisted of Kathleen and myself.
31 Aug -
We left Chipiona for the last time on Sunday 31 Aug at 0950, bound for Barbate. The wind was initially light and variable but it eventually settled into the western quadrant and even made it up to F3 so we were able to sail after an initial period under engine. For 3 hours during the afternoon we even managed to fly the kite, which helped the speed no end. As the wind, although light, was generally westerly we decided to keep going through the night and to clear the Straits of Gibraltar before a Levanter had a chance to rush in and hold us up. We motor sailed past Tarifa at 2205 and, propelled by a favourable spring tide, fairly rushed though with the GPS showing more than10 kts over the ground at one point. We rounded Gibraltar at just after midnight and headed for Benalmadina. Having cleared the narrows we were able to sail with a westerly 3/4. We arrived at Benalmadina at 1025 having covered 137 miles in 24.5 hours with the engine on for a little over half of this time.
We were very unimpressed by Benalmadina, the berth that we were allocated in the marina was badly situated, and the town, although clean and modern was clearly catering for the ‘el cheapo’ end of the package tour market. Sadly the view of the Costa del Sol from seaward reinforced our worst preconceptions of over-
We escaped from our ‘bouncy’ mooring at Benalmedina at 1125 bound for Ibiza/Formentera. We had, after some debate about day sails versus overnight 24 hr stages, decided to go the whole hog and head direct for Formentera, some 350 miles distant. The forecasts were for light easterlies which was correct for about the first hour. At 1700 we sighted a number of turtles and soon afterwards a pod of dolphins although they did not come to ‘play’. We motored with varying degrees of wind assistance until we ran into banks of mist off the coast of Granada province. The forecast had mentioned ‘morning mist’ but not what was becoming afternoon fog. After nightfall we were into fog, which was at times dense but with a few tantalising clear patches. We were able to see the Cabo de Gata light before turning NE. The fog seemed to clear somewhat as we began moving north, but not for long and we continued in very poor visibility until around 0830 on the 3rd. As we had been under engine for the whole of the 21 hours so far we decided to change course for the port of Garrucha in order to re-
As we closed the harbour entrance for Garrucha we saw groups of what at first looked like seabirds skimming the wave tops, however they were not birds but flying fish, which we had not realised are found in the Mediterranean.
The tank filled, we left Garrucha at 1155 and headed for the Cabo de Palos, which is about 10M east of Cartagena. We had no further problems with fog or mist. By early afternoon most of the forecasts were still predicting easterlies but Meteo France alone had added a mention of the possibility of a fresh NE airstream for the outlook period. Rather significantly, by then we had a light NE breeze. 1700 on the 3rd saw us just south west of Cartagena and with cumulus clouds piling up over the Cabo de Palos. Cartagena had been one of our possible stopping points and as events then turned out we should have gone in there for the night. However, by then we were some 230M through our planned trip with only about 120M to go to Formentera, so we pressed on under engine into the teeth of what was by then an NE5 and a somewhat choppy sea. We had hoped that the chop was caused by the NE going current opposing the wind and that, once clear of the headland, the sea would calm down a bit. We slogged into the wind and sea, and by 0200 on the 4th we had heavy showers and squalls to add to the fun. All this time the wind was ENE 5 and gusting a good bit more. Earlier we had tried to tack but the pitching was causing the genoa to back-
With the north-
The wind was still NE but forecasts were for 3/4 and a slight sea so we decided to tack up towards Luis Campomanes, about 30M to the NE, as a staging point for the trip across to Formentera. We left Alicante at 1110 but before long we had NE6, plus gusts to 30kts and a sea that was probably ‘moderate’ and worsening, so once again we had to divert to a nearer port. This was Villajoyosa, which we entered at 1600 having covered 22.5M.
The forecasts suddenly started predicting a short period of southerlies before a big blow from the NW expected on the 8th. So we left Villajoyosa at 1100 bound for Formentera and as soon as we cleared the port the wind settled into the south. It was about 2/3 at first but later became 4/5 and we were soon broad reaching in great style. After we had cleared Benidorm Island we were able to set the auto-
At about 0900 we moved to a vacant marina berth just in time, as soon afterwards two large catamaran ferries came in to where we had been overnight. The marina office allowed us to stay in our adopted berth so we did not have to move again. The gales forecast for the 8th actually arrived on the 9th with predictions of NW7/8/9 for the Baleares area.
In a hot and sunny flat calm we motored the short 3.5 miles to the anchorage at Espalmador, which is one of the minor islands between Formentera and Ibiza. This is a popular spot that can hold over 100 yachts in high season. A great spot for sunbathing, swimming and even wallowing in mud if that takes your fancy. No, we did not indulge, having put up with Humber mud from time to time.
In a very light SW, we motored 19M up the SE coast of Ibiza to Cala Mastella where we anchored for the night.
Our next anchorage was on the SW of Isolote Tagomago which was only 3.5M from Cala Mastella. We spent the day there before moving on another 2.5M to Cala San Vicente for the night. This was not a good choice because by the end of the evening a SE swell was rolling in and giving us a very ‘rolly’ night. This ‘aggro’ was added to by an American yacht that had chosen to veer some 40m of chain in only 5/6m of water and with very light winds. We reckoned that he was trying to secure the whole bay for himself by the sheer size of his swinging circle.
The forecasts for the sea state in the Canal de Mallorca, which for several days had been indicating a moderate head sea, were now showing a slight sea with a light NE wind. With the further outlook showing a return to F5-
Kathleen was right, because at 0800 the wind quickly built to a NE5 which was then augmented by a strong rain squall. The anchor was dragging so we had to move rapidly to avoid ending up stranded on a very pretty beach. We found a more sheltered spot and anchored there without further alarms until it was time to leave at 1030 for Palma, 9.5M away to the north. We berthed at the Real Club Nautico at 1200. Once again the 22lb Bruce anchor had let us down and we will probably have to replace it with something more effective in Mediterranean conditions, which often means weed. We also have a 35lb CQR but this too is not without vices. I have dived down to check that it was well set only to find the ‘tell-
As we were once again ‘storm bound’ by NE6/7 winds we had a day of housekeeping and hired a car for a tour of the north of the island. We also applied for and were granted a permit to visit the marine nature reserve of Cabrera which would then be our next stop.
With a forecast of Variable 2/3 we left Palma at 1055 bound for Cabrera. We had to motor as far as Cabo Blanco but, as the wind had settled to SSE3 we were then able to long / short tack towards the reserve islands. We arrived in Puerto Cabrera at 1710 having covered 35.6 miles. Our permit was for a specific numbered buoy but after some fruitless searching for No.5 we gave up and took a vacant one that showed no number.
As our permit was for 2 nights we spent the day with a walk up to the well preserved and strikingly situated 14th century Castle and a trip by dinghy to the Cueva Azul which is a large sea cave that can be entered in a dinghy. The attractive natural harbour of Puerto Cabrera has been laid with about 50 buoys for which no charge is made by the reserve authorities. A very peaceful and beautiful spot with no beach front restaurants, discos, fast motor boats or jet skis etc. The only source of refreshments ashore is the small military canteen, which welcomes visiting ‘yachties‘.
Having decided to skip the rest of Mallorca’s south coast we planned to sail direct from Cabrera to Ciudadela in Menorca, some 65 miles away. So we slipped away from Cabrera at 0550, picked our way in darkness through the channel between Cabrera (goat) and Conejera (rabbit) islands and headed NE along the coast of Mallorca. The wind was almost ‘on the nose’ but a good F4 so we motor sailed for the first 20 miles. However we could then change course onto 35° and the wind veered a little so that we could fetch our course. Bliss, as Kabardar sailed quickly on a beat and later a close reach all the way to Ciudadela which we entered at 1630 having covered 67.2 miles. We found a berth at the Club Nautico quay in a 2, and later 3, deep raft.
The day was spent exploring the attractive old town and doing various bits of shopping. Later we even indulged in some paella at one of the many waterfront restaurants.
We made the short trip of 22.7M round the north of the island to Cala Fornells, which is a large and very popular anchorage. The place seemed to be an attractive small and mostly new village, which is popular with ‘mature’ Brits.
A very taxing day with a sail of no less than 8.6 miles round the corner into the delightful Cala Addaya. This is like a mini fiord and with a very sheltered pool for anchoring and even with some real mud for the anchor to get its ‘teeth’ into.
We woke to thundery rain which showed no signs of easing so to begin with we thought of staying put. However it did eventually ease a bit so we headed out on our last lap round Menorca, bound for Mahon. It felt strange to sail in foul weather gear after so much sunshine. The weather had changed significantly over the previous few days, being much cloudier and somewhat cooler. We arrived at Marina Menorca in Mahon at 1400 having motored 18.5M. The task was then to get Kabardar all prepared and fuelled-
24 & 25 Sept
Another NE6/7 was promised for the Menorca sea area for the 24 Sept and this predictably would result in an unpleasant head sea for our crossing to Corsica, which required a course of around 075°. So we explored Mahon, went cycle riding to Cala Es Grau, and waited for the weather to cheer-
26, 27 & 28 Sept
We left Mahon at 1215 on Friday 26 and headed out north eastwards. The forecasts were fairly unanimous for a slack low pressure area over the western Med and for the NE wind to be replaced by Var1/2, then SE2/3 and finally veering through SW3/4 to end up as the NW expected late Sunday and Monday. What we actually experienced was all between NE and E and very light until, right at the end of the crossing, when we had Bonifacio in view, we detected, but only just, a SE breath of all of 3 kts. The sea started off slight with a bit of swell from the NE but gradually went smooth and later on very smooth, so smooth in fact that there were sharp reflections of stars on the surface of the sea.
The distance involved meant that even with a full jerry can of diesel in addition to a full tank we could not be sure of motoring the whole distance. So we tried to sail whenever the wind was sufficient which was not very often. Tacking at 2-
For most of the trip there was very little to be seen, very few vessels of any kind, and very few birds. We had a short visit from a group of porpoises but they did not stay to play and were soon gone.
We had selected a range of course options from 059° for Ajaccio, 068° for Bonifacio, and 077° for the ‘divert’ option of Alghero which was only 190M from Mahon. The other two were about the same at 240M. Our first choice was Bonifacio but Alghero did look tempting when we could see the loom of its lights as we approached the Sardinian coast.
Over the last 40M or so we could see a considerable amount of lightening in the heaped cumulo-
On Sunday 28 at 1130 we berthed in the Port de Plaisance in the beautiful calanque of Bonifacio at the extreme southern tip of Corsica. We received a friendly welcome from the Capitainerie who, having allocated us a berth on the visitors’ pontoon, later recommended a move to another berth to avoid the late night noise from bars, restaurants and a night-
Had we known just how windless the trip would be we would probably have delayed our departure by 24 hours and ‘ridden’ the front of the strengthening nor-
After some experiments with watch keeping systems on previous trips we had settled on 4 hours on/off with both of us ‘on’ for 1400-
29 & 30 Sept, 1 Oct
We explored the old ‘haute ville’, walked along the cliff tops and planned our final sails before arrival at Ostia.
2 & 3 Oct
The plan had been to sail round to Porto Vecchio and to spend a couple of nights there before making the 130 M run across the Tyrrenhian Sea to ‘Il Porto di Roma’. However this was fouled up by the weather. The forecasts were by then fairly unanimous on a big W/NW blow for 5 Oct, so we decided to make ‘a run for it’ and set out at 1150 on the 24 hour run across to Ostia / Rome before the onset of the expected bad weather. This meant that we had to make do with the light winds in the hole between two doses of unpleasant weather. Meteo France, the Italian Institute and WCS Marine were predicting SE3 for most of the next 24 hours with a veer to the SW coming on the morning of 3 Oct. Wetter Online (a German Internet site) had NE2 and Var.2 and finally the change to SW2/3. As our course needed to be around 075°, it was completely predictable that the majority would be wrong and the German minority closest. We had a very light breeze from the NE for most of the trip and when the expected SW did come it was no more than F2. We tried hard to sail and tacked when the wind was above 5 kts but mostly we had to motor. Even when the SW wind came in it was no more than F2 and even with the No.1 poled out we could manage no more than 2.5kts. To add to the frustration, even though the wind was so light the sea was lumpy and Kabardar pitched and rolled along and it was hard to keep the sails filling. So after almost 30 hours and 151M we motored into Il Porto di Roma at 1730 on 3 Oct. The engine had been running for 22.5 hours. We were rather disappointed that our trip did not end with a good crossing under sail, but at least we made the right decision as the wind and sea conditions went downhill rapidly after our arrival at the marina
4 to 7 Oct
By the evening of the 5 Oct the wind was up to F8 over the marina, and several crews were claiming to have recorded over 40kts. After one quiet day the gales and high seas returned again by early evening on the 7 Oct. With two full gales in 48 hours the Med. is not always calm and sunny!
The Porto di Roma, which will be our base for the next 7 months, is only 2 years old, with excellent facilities and most importantly with good shelter for a marina that opens directly onto the Tyrrenhian Sea. We were told that there will be some 80 non-