Leg 3: Part 2

I have to break with the method of day by day recounting of life onboard, as the next six days turned quite fraught.

Being aware you have a leak and living with it, is a little different when you apply hindsight. It goes like this, the rudder gland and the stern gland both drain into the main bilge, which is cool when the bilge pump is working, as mentioned before.

When it dies mid dinner the knock on effects are far reaching.

First the excess water leaks into the main bilge, from where, when sufficiently high enough it leaks into the keel tank. Itself unpleasant, especially when the keel contains 700 litres of diesel, which we sort of need to get through the first week of no wind, not to mention running the generator and watermaker to produce fresh water. Our problem during the previous night, was not in fact a lack of diesel in the day tank, more a lack of diesel in the diesel tank.

Of course this took hours of following white elephants and cul de sacs before we realized that the bottom half of the keel tank was full of water, thus feeding the day tank with water too. Marvelous! The only access to the keel tank, without major surgery was through the fuel gauge sender, approximately a 1 inch hole. We have on board one of those faux brass Chinese oil pumps, that move a quarter of a cup of liquid at a time, laborious to say the least. All in all we pumped 300 litres of water out of the tank until finally the first signs of diesel began to appear. For those of you, who didn’t know, the diesel will always float on top. So it’s a case of draining the water away until the clean stuff appears.

From the beginning to the final purging of the main engine and generator system took 13 hours. Distance made good in that smelly, dirty, heart breaking time, 31 miles.

Most of the next day continued on clearing up the mess from the day before. I reckon that of the 700 liters of fuel we started with, we used 200 litres and binned 100litres, leaving us with 400 litres for the rest of the trip. Lets pray for wind!




Leg 3: part 1 Cape Verde to St Lucia

The rest of the crew have now arrived and with some last minute provisioning, we fueled and left under full sail, with crew in training about kite trimming. After some shenanigans with kite, the next bit of excitement came from the intrepid fishermen at the back of the boat. Their knowledge and wisdom spanned the globe, from the skyscrapers of Hong Kong to the mountains of Hungary, this group was led by the beach wisdom of Hawaii. Never has such collective deep sea fishing knowledge been gathered together. However whilst we poured scorn, they succeeded, a strike, whirring of clutches, a fish on the line. It wasn’t even seaweed this time, as the gaff was put on standby ready for immediate use, Conrad fought the reel and Andras offered encouragement and wondered if the line would hold. Eventually a small mackerel broke the surface.  Conrad covered well by saying .”At least we had bait now!” and the gaff was stood down and stowed. I wouldn’t say the group was deflated, more wistful about big ones to come. Vicky helpfully said, “I take it you still want Chicken Curry tonight?”.
We carried on all night on a four sail reach fairly racking up the miles. Then, during the dawn watch the wind deserted us and it was engine on. This may seem a bit odd with so far to go, but we either ran the generator or the engine to top up batteries and fridges, so may as well grab the miles as well. Forecast talks of wind this evening but we will see. Meanwhile 30 degrees C on deck so all sunbathing.

Day 2
Wow how can you pack so much into a day where nothing really happens. Started off everybody a bit groggy after their first night, had doubled up watches to allow for new guys, which meant at least two people in the cockpit. Wasteful and boring for all concerned. First issue of the day started when, 1litre bottle of shampoo high dived off the shelf in the bathroom and head butted the shower faucet. No showering good thing, no washing hands bad. Used the swim platform shower hose as a donor however obviously it was not a direct fit, more jungle bodging upside down in a locker. Next on the list the freshwater pre filter shat itself, voiding precious freshwater into the bilge, again no spare housing, why would you? So a mini bodge to restore fresh water. Took a bit of wildlife break to photo huge swordfish and 3 hump back whales really close up. No wind all day so engine still on, this was expected on departure, so no big deal.
Bit of an issue over Lemon Chicken evening meal. We have a long term issue with both rudder and stern glands leaking, so when the engine room bilge pump burnt out, all got a tad wet. Now we did have a spare, but of course it was different. So I missed dinner, whilst battling arms length tropical plumbing.
Major revamp of watch system , which if it works I will detail next week. The bones of it leaves me out of the rota but on call.
3.15 call arrived, nice thunder and lighting storm to deal with. However as we discussed it the engine died. It transpires that our day tank gauge which has been shit since the day the boat was launched has finally given up pretending to work. So day tank ran out of diesel. Of course dragged sludge from the bottom of the tank and clogged everything. Big lesson in righty tighty and lefty loosely after half an hour of struggling to take the fuel filter off, then a surprisingly problem free bleeding period saw us back under way again within two hours. All in all though everyone had a great night’s sleep and determined for team maintenance before breakfast tomorrow.

Leg 2: Part 4

The last run in.
At this time of year, this is an empty bit of ocean, apart from yesterday’s yacht, we had not seen another vessel since leaving Gran Canaria.
I think the autopilot has got bored bugging us and now just gets on with it. We dropped the stay sail overnight as the wind was peaking around 23knots and we had no need for it. All in all a better day and night.

Sunday was a strange day, knowing that you have less than 100 miles to go, it’s hard to settle into routine, but peering into the distance gains nothing.
Our good friend Gavin from Ireland recently had a book published, it is named Harmattan, and it gives a great insight into life in West Africa. I knew the name referred to a wind on the African coast, what I didn’t know, is that it’s a dust laden trade wind, that means you cannot see the Cape Verde Islands, until you hit them, so to speak.

I mentioned earlier in the week that our main GPS plotter packed up, well to keep us on our toes the backup unit died as well, joy!!
This left us with my iPad as the only working unit, which in itself is no problem. Other than we had not downloaded the Cape Verde Navionics pack, as it would have meant taking all of Africa with it. So on the screen two yellow blobs sort of mark where we are going. Back to lots of scribbling on charts again and consulting the radar. As often is the case, a fairly anticlimactic landfall, just as the sun was rising we rounded the headland into Mindello on Sao Vincente, dropped sails and tied up in a really friendly marina, job done.
Glasses of wine all round. Then off to the joys of African style paperwork for Customs and Immigration.
No time yet to get a true impression of this place. It’s certainly not Europe, but pretty cool in a poverty meets wealth sort of contradiction.

Thanks for all the messages after the show on Tuesday, we caught snippets of it as the Internet here is prehistoric, oh well I’m sure we can catch a recording when we get back.

That’s going to be all from us until we get to the other side, so as Adele does, we will write you from the other side.

Leg 2: Part 3

After the shenanigans of the previous 24 hours, Thursday remained windy, with us trimming more for the sake of the auto pilot than any sailing efficiency. Only two things to note, went to plot our position at 7.00pm and found that the main plotter wasn’t getting a position, gulp, have the Americans got something planned? Checked my iPad, phew working perfectly and the Mickey Mouse repeater in the cockpit is working, so a problem with the main unit.
I couldn’t let Andras sit through New Year on his own, so got back up at ten to twelve and had a coffee party in the cockpit. Wanting to add a bit of zest to the occasion I opened the naughty locker, where we keep all things necessary for boys and girls to be naughty. I made my choice and asked Vicky what she wanted, a little coy smile, quick look to see if Andras was listening, then she said “chocolate digestives”, crest fallen I put my choice back, I suppose we can have Jaffa cakes another night.

More of the same, still very rolley, however the boat was looking after itself. I have managed to check the alarming rate which I have been going through novels on board, by picking up a door stop called the history of Jerusalem, I’m only a couple of charters in, but it already sounds like Nidri with less sex.

We are using a passage chart which in the North starts at Lisbon and finishes in Freetown, Sierra Leone. A small cross marking your LAT and LONG covers an area of a couple of hundred square miles. It’s interesting though, on leaving the Canaries we would have a position marked every twelve hours. Looking at the chart with 200miles to go, the plots are so close together that it looks more like one of those WW2 maps, showing anti tank defenses along the Siegfried Line, anticipation I guess.

Sail came up astern at about 3.00pm, as we were going for the slow and easy straight downwind, aiming for 120nm per day, these guys were banging the corners, i.e.sailing on a broad reach much faster, but having to cover more distance. At around 8.00pm they were heading west straight for us, rather than second guess whether they would pass ahead or astern, I called on lower power VHF “yacht on my Port side this is Lady SeaBreeze.” You are having to rely on common sense that the other boat will twig on that they have also not seen anybody in days, so most likely it’s the boat ahead of them. We were rewarded instantly by a chirpy Aussie, changed down to channel 10 and got the altering course conversation out of the way.

“Can you go to starboard 5 degrees and I will go to port 5 degrees.” Sorted nice, easy and seaman like. After that it was the gossip hotline. Where from, where bound, how many days out, swell been terrible etc. They had mum, dad, mate and their 5 year old onboard, having spent days gybing South, before they closed with us, they had just completed their final gybe, then two weeks over to Antigua. Really nice 15 minutes chewing the fat with basically a speaking navigation light, as we could see nowt else, then off on our separate ways. After we signed off, Vicky and I had a half hour comparison post mortem and before you know it, another hour has gone by. There’s really not enough hours in the day for this lark.

Leg 2: Part 2

Fairly uneventful, fortunately the westerly cross swell started to dissipate and we could get a real feel for what these north easterly trades were to bring. You could never imagine standing on board in a marina, wondering if you can make it to the pontoon without a step, that the high sided thing which is your house and transport for the next couple of months, would happily tick off the miles whilst waves washed unimpaired across the deck.
Andras finished his watch around 2am and for the first 20mins I sat thinking, is the incessant rolling going to continue for the next 3500miles?.. No way. I though about putting up the mizzen up, sheeted fairly flat to dampen the roll, but it is so far back in the boat, that all it achieves is to piss the autopilot off. Let’s face it, second only to Vicky we have to keep the autopilot happy. The main being fully battened in lazy jacks is a ball ache to put up on your own and even deep reefed, before the wind it tends to make the boat want to round up. That left the mizzen staysail, of which my only experience, was for photo shoots. It’s now my best friend, it killed the rolley polley, added 3/4 of a knot and being just aft of the balance point on the keel, even the autopilot likes it. Happy Days!

Tuesday rolled into Wednesday and as agreed 8.30 seemed to suit everybody’s sleep patterns as a good time to run the generator, chill down the fridge, freezers and make some fresh water. After our shenanigans in Mogan I was confident of kicking out 50litres of fresh water per hour, so 8.30 to 10.30 would give us loads of charge, chill and water whilst allowing everyone to charge iPads, phones, cameras and all the other tech shit that we gather around us these days. This is much more preferable to a tree of multiplies growing out of the inverter. As an experiment I wanted to see if the solar panels / wind generators could cope with the nav stuff, autopilot and freezer during the day.

We have some serious carnivores on board for the next leg and I don’t really want two live pigs tethered to the foredeck cleats. Could happen yet though as the freezer murdered the batteries all day. Anyway turned the generator on again for a couple of hours, thinking fill up the batteries etc and switch the water heater on for a nice hot shower before turning in for a pre-watch kip.
What’s that smell?… Minute or two to get the access panels off, then, bollocks. Steam coming out of a fresh water cooling pipe on the genny. Of course not a straight pipe, but a molded one with 2 x 90o bends along its length. Needless to say no spare, so it’s out with plumbing fitting hodge box, which is a collection of non matching odds and sods left over since Noah fitted a flushing bog. Fortunately one of the splits was on one of the 90o bends, unfortunately the only fitting to match was a T piece, which would turn our leaking split into a leaking round hole. An hour of buggering about with hacksaws, soft wood bungs and jubilee clips, closed up the unwanted hole, to a workable drip. High fives all round, fire up the genny, no more leaks, cool. Except for the bloody thing was not pumping cooling sea water, obviously the original cause of the burst pipe. Andras uses all English words like, wicked, killer, or awesome, his pronunciation though may be steeped by his Eastern bloc ancestry. The best of this is the word “Baastard”. I’ve never seen it written the way he pronounces it but it definitely suggests and additional long A before the s. I’ve heard it used as a noun describing a beautiful view, nice car, a particularly pretty girl or in this case a bastard water pump. ( Go figure, I cannot.)
Rooting around in the engine spars box turned up a new impeller and as the unit has a habit of chewing water pump belts, I thought change that as well. Of course being a boat we only have access to one side, so changing belts is a knuckle skinning, swearing, agonizing ten minute exercise. I was surprised then that the whole process was producing a warm glow from my lower back to just above my knees. Cottage pie, was the cause, tonight’s dinner in the oven, slowly roasting my back end, grrr…does it ever stop.
Now I had done this right, waited until I got onboard in La Manga and ordered belts filters etc from the team back home, for Vicky to bring out with her. That way as all this stuff originated from there, everything would fit…..Naive. Another 40 minutes of pulling, stretching, knuckle skinning finally saw the belt on and water pump bolted down, albeit at a funny angle. Fire in the hole, genny starts and fire quickly extinguished by water pissing out of the pump assembly. Baastard. Take it all apart, fight it back together again and finally success, sure it looks a bit impractical boat owner and it does leak a bit, but hey it works!

Leg 2.Gran Canaria to Cape Verde. Part. 1

Monday 28th December – Depart Mogan.
Rather surprisingly, given that the average Canarian office day starts. 9.00am, we got to the fuel quay by ten having negotiated a very complicated fresh water tariff from the marina. As you initially tie up, a marinaro takes a water meter reading from the tap adjacent to you berth, I agree the figure and all is well. I hadn’t thought about it until I climbed the steps to the office 10 days later, that it could be a substantial fee. Let’s face it Mogan by Canary standards was not cheep!! Boom boom. When the girl in the office got someone on the blower to go our berth and take a final reading, I thought uh oh, going to be stung here. All in all the water process took 40 minutes and for two tons of water over ten days we were charged five euros, I mean really, jobs for the boys. Met by a very friendly glam lady at the fuel quay, who was also a bit of an amateur sleuth, I mean in no time she put together, her geographical location, big long distance cruising boat and fourteen Jerry cans waiting to be filled on deck and asked ‘ are you going to the Caribbean?’ When we answered affirmative ‘si by sea’ she replied, ‘I’ve always wanted to do that.’ It must be the same feeling a window cleaner at Heathrow gets.

By 10.30 we had cut our ties with land and by 10.34 I had nearly run over one of those silly submarine tourist thinghys, fancy putting it under the water.

We spent most of the day mucking around with sails, waiting for the promised north east trade wind to kick in, which it promptly did at eight o clock at night.

Offshore like this we have a fairly loose daytime watch with Vick covering 7am to 9pm, Andreas 9pm to 2am and me on until 7am switching back to Vicky for sunrise. Of course when the wind started to blow and the NE swell met with the encumber the Westerly swell, it took two hours of messing around with sail combinations to get the autopilot to be even vaugely interested in taking part. By 10pm I left Andreas with a poled out Genoa and his finger on the reset button of the autopilot.

Heading down the passage way to our aft cabin, I had a sense of foreboding. Due to the cross swell, we were pretty much rolling gunnel to gunnel and moving about down below was a tad tricky. On entering our cabin, 2things were obvious, the autopilot situated under our bed was continuously screaming from lock to lock and Vicky,God love her was face down star fish fashion, as if she had been shot from an overhead cannon. I don’t think it was a territorial thing, more she was hanging on for dear life…

Either way I beat a hasty retreat to the saloon. To be greeted by the Lady Sea Breeze percussion band, why can’t boat food come in soft spongy packing? Thus started two hours of listening at a locker door to identify the offending item, then fling the door open to silence within and a mocking banging from the locker I had just been too. To be honest I would have given up earlier if I had twigged the fact that most noise was from stuff hitting the back of the locker door I had just opened. The above period of time and a jumbo roll of kitchen roll later, all I had achieved was a bass beat.

Due to the lack of lee cloths I woke up under the saloon table and thought bollocks to this, I will go on watch early. Andreas happily handed over and went to begin his own off watch nightmare.

About an hour in, I hoisted the mizzen stay sail, things quietened down a bit and we fairly rattled off the miles, till Vicky came on watch at 7.00

Mogan – in transit

Well we are coming to the end of a fairly long ten days in Mogan, Gran Canaria. Events conspired to not make it worth moving anywhere else, so we settled down in the marina and hired a car.

By Tuesday we had completed pretty much all of the onboard maintainence stuff and in an effort to stay away from the red wine, took off sight seeing. On the first day we took the coastal road up the west coast and it is truly awesome. Sheer cliffs, breaking Atlantic swells, just fantastic. By lunchtime we had reached Las Palmas and stopped for a good look around, as this had been our intended first destination. It was with no small trepidation that we parked the car and went walkabout. Didn’t take long, the volume and noise of the traffic, police cars and ambulances all with blues on and sirens blaring, was overwhelming, as was the smell from the marina. After an hour we could take no more and it was back to the car for a quick escape.

That night to continue our theme of escape from the confines of the boat, we ate ashore. Little restaurant which had been open with the same ownership, decor and menu since 1976. It turned out to be epic! Andreas almost wept with joy as he tackled a steak more reminiscent of the geography of Gibraltor than of any known animal. So good was it, in fact we booked a table for Christmas night and retired home, happy that another job had been ticked off the list.

The following day we struck off inland and very quickly voted one stretch of road among the best in Europe. Incongruous to see pine trees interspersed with palm trees, just beautiful. At this end of the island you have valleys starting near the center and radiating out, like the gaps between spokes on a wheel. As you crest one ridge it all changes from palm trees and prickly pear to massive banana plantations. You get a real feel of being on the outskirts of Europe. At the sea end of each valley, typically you find one of the resorts towns, for which the island is famous. Today saw us end in Peurto Rico.( not to be confused with the Central American country.)The beach and marina are shouldered between two massive hotels, staggered up the side of the ravine, not aesthetic, but nicely done, clean and well thought out. Andre convinced me that some time amongst the throng of half naked humanity sunning itself on the golden sands was needed. In truth I lasted twenty minutes before I stood up, shook the afore mentioned golden shit out of my shorts and went to a beach bar for a late lunch.

Our  final day in the mountains was by far the most spectacular, museums, awesome campsite on the shores of a lake, a drive up to the highest point and a traditional Canarian mountain lunch, made an awesome finale to our exploration of the Gran Canaria hinterland.

Thursday was Christmas Eve and the day of Vicky’s arrival.

The morning was spent cleaning and doing laundry and then on-wards in the afternoon for hyper market shopping for bulk items. A late night drive got me to the airport and Vicky arrived on time, with no hassle. By 12.30 in the wee hours of Christmas morning we were back on board, sitting in the cockpit with a bottle of red catching up on our past month.

Christmas day was bazaar, no spelling mistake, the whole village of Mogan becomes an open market, which is exciting, interesting and ultimately bloody annoying. First order of the day was to locate the hire car as the local police had towed it in the night, to make room for a stall selling African face masks. An hour of trudging around, found it and it cost 40euros to release Percy the polo from prison, Happy Christmas. To escape the hoard thronging the town, we took Vicky on an abbreviated mountain drive, then stopped for lunch at Playa de Ingles. Toilet of a town, but a simply incredible beach with massive dunes. Given the non traditional Christmas we were having, it seemed only correct to have a Chinese for lunch, which as it happened was instantly forgettable. It’s an old adage to never go back and try and relive a great experience, that night was no exception, our fabulous night so looked forward to, was destroyed by different chef, staff and quality, Andre looked so woe begotten that he was not charged for his terrible meal, oh well. We retired to Deneheys Irish pub for gin and tonics and to lick our wounds, for nutrition.

Boxing day dawned and the organisation machine that is Vicky had her day, troops were marched to Percy then directed to a hyper market, as provisions in the Cape Verde are reported limited and expensive, we were shopping for six for a month. Arriving at the check out with a convoy of trollies, we scouted a fresh and strong looking cashier and ruined her day. With Percy’s hull rubbing on the wheels it was back to Lady Sea Breeze to try and fit it all in. To many cooks and all that, so I retired to our cabin to read while Andre and Vicky stowed the lot.

Sunday now and final internet stuff to do, probably a last supper ashore, then all go tomorrow. Have to give back our good friend Percy, pay the marina, fill up with water and diesel, then we are out of here. It’s been a great place, probably too long a stop, but that’s just how it works out. Thanks Mogan and Gran Canaria, I certainly will be back.

Happy New Year.

Leg 1: Part 3

After our evening of the Nets, things settled back to normality onboard, wind was light on the nose, swell was from four 
different directions, but the diesel gauge had slowed its decent. Due to the vast majority of fuel onboard being stored in the hollow 
keel; the boat has a small day tank mounted above the engine, 
every ten hours motoring you have to remember to pump fuel from the main tank up to refill this little tank.
Sounds like a ball ache and I suppose that it is. Normally I sit at the chart table, flick the switch, plot our position, write up the 
log, by which time the tank is full and your good for another ten 
hours. The only problem is when during this period there is a Snafu on deck, you rush up to help out then half an hour later its oil 
skins off and into bed to enjoy the rest of your off watch. Five 
and a half hours later sit down at the chart table to see how Andre
has got on during his six hour watch, and this incessant little 
blinking light reminds you that we have been pumping fuel around in an endless cycle for ages. In its self no big deal, but I always 
think when those extra running hours on the transfer pump are going to come and bite us in this ass again.

Given the headwinds and dwindling diesel situation I decided to 
divert to Lanzarote in stead of the original direct to Las Palmas 
It was on entering Peurto Arrecife at five in the morning with a 
thirty year old Pilot book, and no plotter did the limitations of 
the old adage, sure the rocks don't move, came to light. The chief limitation being whilst the rocks are reasonably stationary, some 
bugger can move the lights around. In theory it was a pretty simple entry, "long outer break water followed by a complicated inner
 buoyed channel, under the harbour lights". 
Mission control back in Vliho graciously accepted an early morning call to google earth the lie of the land, all seemed to correspond with our onboard pilot, so game on.Like all city marinas the street lights are a major 
issue but I could clearly pick out the Group flash 3 every ten 
seconds and steered a cautious course towards it.
Apart from the big onshore swells no issue, we rounded the light no 
problem, well other than the swells stayed the same.
Ever curious I looked more closely at the light tower on the end of the breakwater and to my horror found it was an east cardinal bouy now clearly 
visible as we were on the west side of it looking back out to sea. Hmm not ideal,a glance at the echo sounder showed we were in no 
immediate danger but where the f@?! Where we.
Another call to Vicky and more internet searching identified the 
new break water light as flashing twice every 5 seconds in green.
Ah!, yeah I saw that a mile earlier and reasoned it was one of the inner channel lights. Some time in the interceding years the old 
breakwater designation had been shifted to the other side of the
 harbour entrance to mark the end of a reef there, yep the rocks 
don't move.
Having found out where we were, entering the harbour and channel 
was easy and the marina staff were on the ball and helpful. 
Stayed four days sorting minor problems and resting up, with a couple of visits to view the natives, mostly pink English folk.

Mean while Rob had found a water maker guru on the South West coast of Gran Canaria, so we were on our way again to Mogan to meet up with Mike the Guru.
Nice easy over night passage past Ferteventura and a mid afternoon arrival in a really busy cute little place.
After a slight misunderstanding with marina management, where they thought if they said, no sorry we are full that we would go away, 
we secured a berth.
First thing was to call Mike as it was a busy Friday afternoon.
I did that looking around me like a seagull thing, waiting for the 
call to connect. 
I nodded a greeting to the bloke on the berth next door as he scrabbled about looking for some thing, then looked the other way and said
"Hi Mike, I called earlier about my water maker". 
I have to say that the line was crap, really echoey but unbelievably it transpires were are next door to Mike, happy days!
After an hour on board the water maker was doing its thing again and I now understand how it works.

That's about it for now, eagerly anticipating Vicky's arrival on 
Christmas Eve, for us bit more maintenance and then we will hire a 
car to pick Vick up from her late night arrival, bit of shopping 
and then we are off to the Cape Verde and a rendezvous with Rob and the final members of the crew.

Happy Christmas to all and if you get a chance, watch the ITV 
documentary on the fifth of January. All reports say it's good but
unfortunately we will be at sea and will not get to see it.
Will write again in 2016


Leg 1: Part 2

After 24 hours of welcome to ocean sailing, we caught a break. 
The wind died down and the Simrad fairy came and fixed the auto pilot.
As yet we have still not figured out what the problem was, just as we pass
it subconsciously I see that we both make the sign of the cross on its 
little plastic head and pass no remarks. All of day two was pretty
innocuous, no wind, big sea and a good time to get to grips with 
what we were about.

We have this dinky little satellite doo dah on board which lets us 
communicate with the world. I love it, however the weather forecast site predictions are pure fantasy, falling into the trap of if a machine
tells you something it's got to be true.
We spent the day preparing for easterly 35 knots, imagine the ball ache when mid way through 
your night watch a south west four drifts in. You cannot sail with it as yesterday's swell is still rolling through, you cannot avoid it and go to the pub,
so with 600 miles to go its motor sailing. This is drudgery, for sure we don't have enough diesel to motor the 
whole way,but the alternative is wallowing. All the forecasts, 
bellowed N'easterly, the pilot charts guaranteed north easterly , 
Horatio fki'n Nelson waxed lyrical about the north east trades, and 
here we are motor sailing into light head winds, grrrrrr.

Nothing lasts for ever I guess, so it was no surprise when drizzle set in, however the unanimous feeling on board was better a headwind 
with autopilot than tail wind without.

The plan had been to stay 200 miles or so off the Moroccan coast 
however given the dull conditions we ended up straight lining 
toward Las Palmas, what a mistake that was.
I'm fairly relaxed about watch keeping offshore, stay roughly on 
course,no flapping sails and don't hit metal objects, that's about it.So when in the middle of nowhere, I finished the chapter in my 
book, yawned,scratched some places and wearily stood up to look 
over the spray hood, being confronted with a scene from a motor way accident was a bit of a shock. So go from pitch black to flashing 
lights everywhere, takes the brain a little while to compute,WTF, I could see on radar a fishing boat 7 miles to the north of me,then squat until the 
Moroccan coast 120 miles away.
No way, cannot be a net,can it? In my best Moroccan I asked the nice chap on the 
fishing boat did he know anything about this wall of flashing lights in front of me, needless to say he was non forthcoming. 
So if this is a net and the only other floating object is 7 miles away, how long is the fk'n net. 
Whilst I was with increasing vigor calling my fellow human on the fishing boat, incongruously an Irish voice called on the radio and said they had run into 
the same net half an hour previously and had to go 7 miles north to get around it.
I won't offend you with the narrative of the next half hour,save to say Andreas spent a while learning some new English words.
Over the course of the next 8 hours this happened four times with 
the longest detour being 14 miles, to all fishermen and fish eaters I salute you,b*****ds.

Winter Adventures

Here's the Craic!
A particularly red eye flight brought Andréa (the crew)and I together at 
Madrid airport. In fairness his eyes were attributed to an early flight, 
whereas mine had a history of a wedding week in Ireland.
Rob kindly met us at the airport and within moments we had entered the trip.  
You see, no end of planning goes in to an adventure like this, but for me  
the whole experience is like being a droplet on a bendy funnel. Bit 
profound I know, but lots of sources start at the beginning,from all  
different directions, yet it's only when you reach the narrow bit do you 
really start to concentrate. After that,you follow the highs and lows 
until you get spat out at the end.
For example, board a plane in Dublin and four hours later stand in a 
Chandlery in Madrid trying to decide what you might need for the next  
three months, no easy answer as they didn't even stock grog.
Well we did what we could to break Rob's credit card then we were off to a 
hypermarket to do supermarket sweep. A five hour road trip saw us in La 
Manga Marina, where it was all head scratching trying to remember how   
Lady Sea Breeze worked. Strange place La Manga, 1200 boats in the 
marina summer population of 600000 people and there is more open in  
Nidri at this time of year! Go figure.
Somehow it all got finished. Rob headed off, and Andreas and I had a quiet  
night before catching the 10 o'clock bridge and off to La Caidesa marina  
beside Gib. Truth be told it was an awesome first couple days, sunny 
following wind, kite up, fantastic.
I won't bore you with the to do list that we had when we got to Gibraltar, how ever  
in between the Spanish holidays it was four days of messing around with the 
boat, next stop Las Palmas.
Gotta say I was prejudiced against Gib from a 12 day weather lay over in  
my teens, but this time we had a great few days, and paying €19 a night  
in marina fees certainly was great.
There are miles of advice on how to begin a long offshore trip, for me  
it's simple, untie the boat and go.
Make sure you have the tools and raw materials on board to fix what will  
go wrong, then it's common sense and luck. For instance, when we left Gib 
the autopilot flatly refused to work. Lots of occasional sailors and new sailors  
would say "No problem, I enjoy helming!". However when you extrapolate the  
man hours over the trip and factor in the 12hours of darkness it just  
does not make sense. Given the option, I would of turned back but alas 35 knots 
of wind from behind made the nearest Simrad dealer just a wee bit too far to go. 
My point is, plan for everything and deal with the rest. Tactics in the
Straits of Gibraltar during an easterly gale are pretty much decided for 
you, go with the flow and try to avoid the GDP of China going east, and 
the GDP of the states going west.
Turning the corner at Tangeirs is a big physiological moment, I expected 
a waft of spices a hint of camel dung etc..,  alas we got diesel fumes  
from a high speed ferry and faint personal hygiene issues.
Lady Sea Breeze is a 1970's  Van de Stadt 55 ft family cruising boat, 
not at her best going down wind in thirty five knots! 
I think when we hit 10.5 knots, she developed a nose bleed which took her days to recover  
from. As a first night at sea it was definitely far from perfect. 
I remember standing at the helm, mentally mapping every jar and chinking glass
below certain that we sounded like a winos handbag on a roller coaster. 
Fortunately our course followed the wind direction as anything left or
right of that would have been suicide. I'll mention the autopilot again,
it kept coming up with over voltage alarm, not something common on a 
yacht which has lights ,fridge, freezer, electronics and a gazillion 
other things switched on.So I looked up the fault finder in the hand 
book, first suggestion" check the power leads are connected" these 
idiot fly planes, breed children and are probably in control of a 
vehicle on the motorway! To be ....................